Sri Lanka v England, 1st ODI, Colombo November 25, 2014

Struggling sides seek World Cup form


Play 03:50
Are England confusing themselves?

Match facts

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Start time 2.30pm (9.00am GMT)

Big Picture

This series, in itself, amounts to very little: just seven more ODIs squeezed into the Sri Lankan rainy season to accommodate a schedule that is already bursting at the seams.

But its proximity to the World Cup provides relevance. Two sides struggling for form and to find settled line-ups have another opportunity to define positions and tactics before departing for Australia and New Zealand. Some players will see their Word Cup hopes enhanced or crushed in the coming weeks. Both sides will hope to have settled on their World Cup team by the end of this series.

Neither side has been in the best of form of late. England have won only one of their past seven multi-match ODI series and that came in the Caribbean when they fielded their T20 side in preparation for the World T20. Sri Lanka suffered the worst ODI whitewash in their history in India, with some eye-wateringly vast defeats. As things stand, Sri Lanka are rated fourth in the ICC's rankings, only a point above fifth-placed England. Sri Lanka won the last ODI series between the countries 3-2, in England in May.

St Lanka have some mitigation for their recent run of modest form. Called to India at short-notice to replace West Indies, their lack of preparation was exposed as they lost 5-0. But the fact that they have recalled Thilina Kandamby - who has not played an ODI since July 2011 - and Jeevan Mendis - who has not played international cricket for more than a year - underlines that they are still searching for missing ingredients.

They are without Sachithra Senanayake, who could be cleared for a return to bowling before the end of the series, and Lasith Malinga, who has undergone ankle surgery that renders him a doubt for the World Cup. But they do possess three batsmen in the top 10 of the ODI rankings - England have nobody in the top 20 - and must be considered favourites for the series.

The wet weather means England have only completed one warm-up game and their middle and lower-order batsmen are without any competitive cricket since September. They are also missing their two senior seamers - James Anderson and Stuart Broad - so will provide opportunities to other seamers in the Powerplays and at the death.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LLLLL (completed matches, most recent first)
England WLLLL

In the spotlight

Alastair Cook's position will remain the subject of media scrutiny - the selectors have pledged their commitment to him already - until he can discover some fluency at the top of the order. With Moeen Ali, Alex Hales and Ian Bell all vying for a position in the top three, Cook needs runs to justify his on-going selection ahead of them. More importantly, England require either more fluent starts or for Cook to provide more substantial contributions to relive the requirements of the middle-order.

Kusal Perera has scored only four runs in his previous three ODI innings and has not reached 50 in his last 12. But he is likely to win another chance at the top of the order, with Sri Lanka requiring a little more solidity. It may be no easy task in conditions expected to provide a little more help than usual for new-ball bowlers.

Teams news

With so much rain of late, Sri Lanka expect conditions to help seam bowlers and might be tempted to field another seamer ahead of the spin of Ajantha Mendis. But given England's less-than-glorious record against spin, that remains undecided.

Sri Lanka (Probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wkt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Dhammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Shaminda Eranga

Steven Finn is an injury doubt for England with a groin strain. He will undergo a fitness test ahead of the game. Moeen Ali will open the batting for England, with Ian Bell likely to go in at No. 3. That means that an England team crying out for aggression will make do without Alex Hales, the man who hit 116 off 64 balls against Sri Lanka at the World T20 earlier this year.

England (Probable) 1 Moeen Ali, 2 Alastair Cook (capt), 3 Ian Bell, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wkt), 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Harry Gurney

Pitch and conditions

The R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo is probably best known as the venue for the highest Test score in history: Sri Lanka's 952 for 6 against India in 1997-98. The winning side has scored in excess of 300 in three of the last four ODIs on the ground and the average run-rate since the start of 2013 has been 5.36 runs per over. The forecast suggests there will be thunderstorms in the afternoon. It would be a surprise if the match escapes unscathed.

Stats and trivia

  • 4 , 0, 4, 0: The scores contributed by Tillakaratne Dilshan's opening partner in Sri Lanka's previous four ODIs.
  • 29 and 40: The amount of months and ODI innings respectively since Alastair Cook reached 80.


    "Moeen Ali is a good player, and he's good against spin. Yesterday at the team meeting we planned a few tactics for him and how to bowl to him in the Powerplays."
    Sri Lanka vice captain Lahiru Thirimanne identifies their target man

    "Preparations have gone well in terms of training. Obviously it's not ideal our second practice game getting washed out. We can't control the weather and I'm not sure we're going to control it over the next couple of weeks."
    England captain Alastair Cook takes up a particularly British topic.

    George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on November 26, 2014, 20:03 GMT

    @Arun Bose - thought I recalled Yuvi struggling with short pitched stuff here in tests in 2011 - if not then my bad? I've never questioned his SF credentials Raina looked to be able to handle SPB in SFs but struggled with it in tests. Listen I'm not saying we should discard Hales at all but Ali has made a better start for Eng in ODIs as a batsman than Hales has - both in terms of average and SR. Plus he can bowl some overs of spin. Plus he does open for his county side in SFs. Averaging 37 there is certainly room for improvement but combining and ave of 37 with a SR of 96 is not that bad either either and compares favourably with with others at the top. I'd also say the Us Guys (like I have anything to do with team's selection - same with you and yours) are actually guilty of persisting for underperforming players for too long - esp in SFs - and that has been our problem. Maybe Hales is the victim of England being burnt by persisting with guys like Dernbach for so long

  • Android on November 26, 2014, 10:50 GMT

    @JG2704- So you're saying Yuvi couldn't play short pitch bowling before WC 2011 SF? Are you sure you're talking about Yuvraj Singh not some other player? I agree with you about Raina but sorry mate you got it all messed up about Yuvi.. Did you watch Natwest Series 2002 finals where Yuvi and Kaif won us that match? Did you watch him during WT20 in SA where he ripped Stuart Broad and other aussie bowlers apart in that tournament? I don't know where you got this idea that Yuvi couldn't handle short stuff before WC 2011 SF.. Yuvi has always been a great hooker and puller of cricket balls of all kinds.. Moeen Ali may have better average and strike rate than Hales but he doesn't have the required technique to be an opener.. Why don't you guys persist with a player? What's this hurry to rotate players after giving them just 4 or 5 matches? Hales is an attacking batsman and he should be given a substantial amount of time in opening spot, Ali will struggle against short balls..

  • John on November 26, 2014, 10:21 GMT

    @landl47 on (November 26, 2014, 5:52 GMT) Bopara too can take attacks apart on his day. He has an unbeaten double ton on his list A stats. Anyone (besides maybe Cook) in that England side can do similar. As for ODIs for Eng - with bat Bopara averages 31.44 SR 78.39 Stokes 16.23 at 76.39. With ball Stokes averages 6 better but has a 1 RPO worse SR. Domestically there's not much between them bowling wise but Bopara has a better average by 11. You mention Stokes bowling speed - I'm not sure if you think that a greater pace is better for SFs? Surely in SFs it's better to have a bowler bowling dibbly/dobbly stuff and going for less runs?

    Surely Stokes should be competing with the likes of Broad,Woakes,Bres and Jordan and the one thing which is undisputable is Ravi brings is variety to the attack.

  • John on November 26, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    @Arun Bose on (November 26, 2014, 1:59 GMT) Hello again. The last time you were on our threads you were rubbishing our test side and totally in denial about your own teams fragilities and then managed to get out of facing the music saying we'd not hear from you again if Eng won. Anyway back to the present day. Hales probably has more potential but lets just compare the 2 players in ODIs for England. Ali has had 5 inns and averages 37 at a SR of 96 while Hales is 23 SR 68 from 4 inns and has literally scored less than half the runs from just 1 less inns. Also you get some bowling from him too. Re short pitch bowling , I would have thought that you with Yuvi and Raina would realise that SF is a whole different game and look totally different players in SFs. I'm not saying Ali will be as brilliant as those guys but the decision is on merit. Maybe Hales or Lumb (who averaged 50 and then got discarded) should replace Bell or Cook but both seem to be undropable

  • Android on November 26, 2014, 9:52 GMT

    This series will shows us how many more innovative and horrible excuses can SL team come up with after losing a match or a whole series comprehensively. Excuses like underprepared and etc. If only rain gods doesn't mess up this aweful series of 7 matches on flattest of flat tracks of SL..

  • Sandip on November 26, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    It's frustrating to see games are curtailed/washed out due to rain. Young English side has an opportunity to try out everything to rebuild team once again. England did fare in every world cup which can't be ignored. This tour won't help any team as conditions in world cup are adverse to these slow-low pitches. On the other hand, Sri Lanka was badly exposed by Team India raised many questions about earlier success (before India tour). If England plays according to merit & condition, I mean, if they bat sensibly, islanders would get similar taste of recent tour and England will go into the world cup with best moral. If you use seniors in prolong manner, it is inevitable to see fatigue which hit host country. All the best for Anjee specially!!

  • Kalhara on November 26, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    @Rajiv Mel: Agreed bro. But some more points. As a back-up plan for the opening slot, we should try Danushka Gunathilaka who scored 7 half centuries in the 10 match series in ENG/IRE early this year. Well, everyone knows that tharanga is a walking wicket in those conditions. At least i do. ;)

  • Charindra on November 26, 2014, 8:32 GMT

    This could be the wettest ODI series of the century. What terrible scheduling. Hopefully Damulla will be dry.

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    Kandamby would be the best fit for number 4 position after mahela's retirement. I would suggest mahela should open while knadamby at the 4 th which will gives a balance to the lineup

  • Imalka on November 26, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Bad news guys. Its light rain at the moment here in colombo & little bit of dark cloud as well....

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