Buoyed England aim for series decider
Saturday December 13, 2014
Start time 10.00am local (4.30am GMT)
Each time this series has threatened to slip away from England they have pulled their fortunes around with two excellent chases. The first ramped up to a bit of a thriller, finished off by Jos Buttler, but the second in Pallekelle was as clinical and controlled as many England have been on the receiving end of.
The star on Thursday, on the second day of the two-day one-day international, was Joe Root, who continued to cement his position as the fulcrum of the ODI order at No. 4. His three hundreds have all come this year - in North Sound (with a broken thumb), at Headingley and now in Pallekele - and each of them has brought an England victory. Alastair Cook so often preaches the importance of one of the top four batting through an innings for three figures and though the captain is struggling to make it to the 20-over mark, Root is taking up some of the slack.
The huge motivation for England is to make it back-to-back wins in Pallekele which would leave the series with a decider at the Premadasa on Tuesday, although England have not managed to win the capital yet on the trip (except for the warm-up match).
Sri Lanka have not travelled well in this series, but a tightly-fought contest serves more worth with the World Cup closing in, when it comes to assessing character of fringe players. They will see the first Pallekele outing as missed opportunity as they were handed a bare, dry pitch which, due to the fact that the game went into a second day, was further baked under the sun. However, their spinners did not find a great amount of turn - certainly nothing greater than produced by James Tredwell or Moeen Ali.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLWW
In the spotlight
The beam is back on Alastair Cook - not that it was every really turned away. But slowly and surely during this series most of the England players have shown some sort of development, some minor but some hugely significant. Cook has just been treading water. On Thursday he cut his first ball for four, then prodded his way to 20 before missing a straight ball from Sachithra Senanayake.
And talking of Sachithra Senanayake, he produced a superbly controlled and single-minded display on his return to the international scene since remodelling his action. He will have been especially grateful for the wild charge from Moeen Ali which handed him his first comeback wicket and through his 10 overs the control was miserly, conceding just one boundary. Apart from Moeen, none of the England batsman tried to really attack him, so it will be interesting to see how his action holds under an onslaught. But the signs are promising.
*Sri Lanka have dropped Kusal Perera and Ajantha Mendis, with Dimuth Karunaratne, the Test match left-handed opener with just six ODI caps, brought into the squad. Angelo Mathews has hinted that Suranga Lakmal and Lakshan Sandakan could get their chance.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wkt), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Jeevan Mendis, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Suranga Lakmal 11 Lakshan Sandakan
There seems little reason for England to change their successful combination. The bowling attack has a good balance to it, although the lack of overs for Ravi Bopara remains a mystery.
England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Moeen Ali, 3 James Taylor, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wkt), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Steven Finn
Pitch and conditions
If conditions are similar to the first match England will not be overly concerned about the prospect of spin given how they handled the chase, although setting targets in such conditions has often provided very problematic. This is a day game, so hopefully there will be enough time to play enough overs before any thunderstorms arrive although there is another reserve day.
Stats and trivia
- Joe Root has scored three ODI hundreds this calendar year - the record for an England player is four, by David Gower
- Root was only the third non-Sri Lankan to score a hundred at this stadium after Ross Taylor and Hashim Amla
- Sachithra Senanayake's 2 for 35 on his comeback was his second-most economical 10-over spell in ODIs
"He's very snappy between the wickets. He reminds me of Scrappy from Scooby-Doo ... he's always nagging at your heels. We have good fun out in the middle, have a nice laugh and a joke."
Joe Root on batting with James Taylor
"The opening spots are still open. With the middle order, we are set. It's just the spinners and fast bowlers we need to look at."
Angelo Mathews says most, well, nearly everything is right with the Sri Lanka team
*5.50pm: This story was update to reflect Sri Lanka's confirmed squad
Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.