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Teams prepare to battle Sri Lanka's monsoon season again

Akila Dananjaya celebrates removing Jason Roy Getty Images

Big picture

Rinse and repeat. That is the strategy for the second ODI in Dambulla, after only 15 overs were possible in the first. Unfortunately, the chance of rain again playing a part remains high, which would be frustrating - if not entirely unpredictable, given the scheduling of this tour in the wettest part of the year in Sri Lanka.

Not too much could be gleaned from the opening exchanges on Wednesday, other than that England remain committed to their aggressive approach, ticking along at six an over despite losing both openers in the Powerplay. Sri Lanka showed they have one or two weapons in their bowling arsenal - though Lasith Malinga, rumbling in like a medieval siege engine, could have been sharper - and then it was over to the Dambulla groundsmen to get their tarpaulin on.

The arrival of rain meant no debut outing with the ball for Olly Stone, England's new 90mph toy, and limited scrutiny of the make-up of their side, which saw the surprising inclusion of Liam Dawson as a third spinner. On Dawson's only previous ODI outing, at Cardiff in 2016, he came under pressure from Pakistan's batsmen during an analysis of 8-0-70-2. Sri Lanka, seeking a revival in this format, will doubtless be keen to test his mettle again.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LLWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)

England WWLWW

In the spotlight

Akila Dananjaya may have turned the most heads of the Sri Lanka bowlers on display on Wednesday, but it was arguably Nuwan Pradeep who bowled the more impressive spell, conceding 23 from five overs, in addition to taking the wicket of Jonny Bairstow. Typically, it was his first game in nine months - those famously delicate hamstrings and leg muscles having misbehaved for him again. But when fit, he moves the ball off the seam at a good pace, and has in recent years developed the kind of control that should make him a serious asset to the Sri Lanka team leading into the World Cup. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha also rates him as a death bowler, and the frequency with which Pradeep had delivered pinpoint yorkers in the months prior to his latest injury would suggest he could be effective in the late stages of opposition innings.

Jason Roy shrugged off the manner of his dismissal in the first match, caught at mid-off trying to hit Dananjaya over the top, but it would surely be remiss of Sri Lanka not to again test him out early in the innings. The stats suggest Roy is less sure of himself when facing spin on subcontinental pitches - in six innings, against Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, he has been dismissed five times by a spinner - but he can point to a reasonably strong record regardless, with three half-centuries on the 2016-17 tour of India (he has also made an ODI hundred and a fifty against Pakistan in the UAE). "It's not anything new," Roy said of the ploy, adding that it could also work to his advantage. "In the Powerplay, bowling spin is quite a risky thing." Either way, it could be fun to watch.

Team news

The first selection of the Dinesh Chandimal era did not do much wrong, given limited opportunity, so Sri Lanka are likely to stick with the same XI.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Kusal Perera, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

England, too, will likely back the same players who lined up the other day, with several still looking for their first significant action on tour.

England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Liam Dawson, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Olly Stone

Pitch and conditions

England's batsmen had made a pretty good start on the surface provided for the first game, which is due to be used again. Muddy patches on the outfield were the main impediment to a resumption on Wednesday, but plenty of sunshine in the intervening period has allowed the ground to dry. There is, however, the possibility of rain interrupting proceedings - but this match, along with the fifth ODI, does at least benefit from having a reserve day.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have not won an ODI in Dambulla since 2014. Since then they have suffered seven defeats and two abandonments.

  • Jonny Bairstow needs five more runs to reach 1000 in the calendar year. Only five England batsmen have previously managed the feat in ODIs, the most recent being Jonathan Trott in 2011.

  • Akila Dananjaya's bowling average of 28.84 is the best from among frontline spinners in the series. His form in 2018 is good too - he has 20 wickets at 25.05. Although Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have both taken more wickets this year, their averages and strike rates are worse.

  • Upul Tharanga needs a further 64 to complete 7000 runs in ODIs. He would be the eighth Sri Lankan to the milestone.

Quotes

"Lakshan Sandakan is a much improved bowler now. We'll be able to bowl well together in partnership, so I'm expecting a lot of support from him."
Akila Dananjaya warns that he is not the only spinner England have to watch out for in the series

"It's been a little bit frustrating. You know at this time of year that's going to be one of the challenges and you try not to let that get to you. It may be throughout the series there are interrupted games, and adapting quickly to the situation is going to be vital to winning."
Joe Root on the unique challenges posed by the ongoing monsoon