4th ODI, Pallekele, October 20, 2018, England tour of Sri Lanka
(27/27 ov, T:115) 132/2

England won by 18 runs (D/L method)

Player Of The Match
31* (34)

Confident England seek to close out rain-impacted ODI series

England have taken an unassailable 2-0 series lead, and now have a rare win in Asia in their sights

Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes in training, Pallekele, October 19, 2018

Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes in training  •  Getty Images

Big picture

A fortnight into England's tour of Sri Lanka, and a pattern has settled over the cricket that has so far been possible. Invitingly clear skies in the mornings have invariably given way to torrential afternoon downpours and if, in between whiles, there's been enough opportunity to get a contest underway, then the players have slotted into whatever windows present themselves.
It's not exactly ideal, but for England - 2-0 up after three truncated contests and with a share of the series secured - they are at least passing their first significant test in this, the final approach to their 2019 World Cup campaign. For Sri Lanka, ill-balanced in the absence of Angelo Mathews and over-reliant on rare moments of individual brilliance, their only realistic target is respectability.
Plenty has been said about the timing of this tour, not least by the ECB themselves, who felt obliged to defend its scheduling in a post on social media during Wednesday's six-hour rain delay.
But somehow, in spite of everything, we've been treated to a pair of entertaining contests so far - with England having to withstand a renaissance performance from Lasith Malinga in the opening contest in Dambulla, before outsmarting their opponents in a 21-over thrash at Pallekele on Wednesday.
Who knows what bearing any of this will have on England's sterner tests to come in the new year, but they've given off the sense of a side with more gears to power through if required. Neither Jos Buttler nor Moeen Ali needed to bat during the run-chase in the third ODI, while Eoin Morgan, the captain, referred to the "good frustrations" in the England dressing-room after that same game, given that players of the calibre of Alex Hales, Sam Curran and Mark Wood can't even get into the team at present. That said, there is a concern that Jonny Bairstow may have damaged his ankle playing football, which may present Hales with a chance to reclaim his opening berth.
Sri Lanka, for their part, need a measure of consistency above all else. Their implosion in the third match was a case in point - 55 for 0 after five overs, 95 for 9 in their remaining 15, with Niroshan Dickwella's blazing intro proving insufficient to ignite a competitive total. Then there's the hot and cold performance of Malinga to consider. He was stunning in adversity in Dambulla, his five wickets showcasing all the old tricks that many feared he could no longer deliver. And yet four days later, his powder-puff display in Pallekele later seemed to deflate the entire attack.
Anything can happen in the course of a one-day international, particularly when Messrs Duckworth, Lewis and Stern get involved in the permutations. But it is hard to see how the narrative of this leg of the tour can be changed in a hurry. England look to have too much in reserve, Sri Lanka already seem to be stretched beyond their limits. A rare win in Asian conditions is very much on the cards, but it's as much a reflection on Sri Lanka's struggles as England's excellence that, should it come to pass, it is unlikely to feel like a seismic triumph.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LLLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
England WWWWL

In the spotlight

He spent much of the summer in the shadow of his younger brother, as Sam Curran cut a dash during the India Test series. But after taking advantage of Liam Dawson's misfortune, Tom Curran stepped into the vacancy to serve a reminder of the uncanny confidence he exudes whenever he's armed with a white ball. His four overs in Wednesday's 21-over thrash were masterfully delivered - his full repertoire of variations helped to check Sri Lanka's rampant early progress before he returned at the death to pick off the lower order for figures of 3 for 17. It was a reminder of how valuable it can be to have a bowler in your ranks who wants to be the hero, and if he's not yet inked into England's first-choice World Cup XI, he's rapidly making a case for the final 15.
There wasn't a lot for Amila Aponso to write home about after his solitary outing during the Asia Cup - it was his first ODI in more than a year, and only his seventh all told, and his figures of 1 for 55 in nine overs proved incapable of slowing Bangladesh's progress towards a 137-run win. But at Pallekele on Wednesday, no-one did more than him to give Sri Lanka a grain of hope in their defence of a sub-par 150. After opening the bowling, ostensibly to target the frailty of Jason Roy against left-arm spin, he bagged Jonny Bairstow straightaway, then bowled Joe Root through the gate one over later. He was powerless to prevent England surging past their target when he returned for his final over, but there was a confidence to his bowling which may manifest itself better over 10 overs rather than four - if the weather gives him a chance to settle into a longer spell.

Team news

Kusal Mendis stepped into the vacancy created by Kusal Perera's quad strain, but his first-ball duck made it three blobs in a row since his Asia Cup meltdown, and suggested that his place in the team is once again in peril. Upul Tharanga, who made way for the 21-over match, is likely to slot back into the side, though possibly at No.3, with Sadeera Samarawickrama expected to be given the chance to build on his 34-ball 35. Dinesh Chandimal, who missed the post-match presentations on Wednesday after suffering a bout of dizziness, is expected to be fit to lead the side once more.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Amila Aponso, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Bairstow did not appear for the rest of training after appearing to turn his ankle during a warm-up game of football. Hales is on standby to take over at the top of the order. Liam Plunkett has arrived in Sri Lanka and is ready to resume his deck-hitting mid-innings role after emerging unscathed from his wedding last week. But with Olly Stone impressing in his first outing of the tour, there's no guarantee that he'll be reclaiming his place straightaway.
England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow/Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Olly Stone

Pitch and conditions

Shockingly, it didn't rain in Kandy on Thursday, and Friday has dawned rather pleasant as well. Which, inevitably, means that the weather on match-day is forecast to be torrential. Nevertheless, after some heroic work from the Pallekele groundstaff, mostly involving the judicious positioning of several acres of blue tarpaulins, the actual pitch for the third ODI proved to be dry and true, with good carry for the seamers and a bit of purchase for the spinners - as Adil Rashid demonstrated with a pinpoint googly.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have won just one of their last six ODIs at Pallekele. That came against South Africa, by 3 runs, in August.
  • To find an innings in which Dinesh Chandimal has hit a half-century at or better than a run a ball, you have to go back to June 2016. He has played 26 innings since then.
  • After making headlines earlier in the tour by admitting he would consider dropping himself for the World Cup if his form didn't merit selection, Eoin Morgan has racked up four fifties in his last five ODI innings, scoring 305 runs at 152.50 in that period.
  • Quotes

    "Hopefully we'll be able to capitalise on good starts through our middle order in the coming games. We've talked about that and formulated a plan about batting in the middle now."
    Sadeera Samarawickrama hopes to bring an end ot Sri Lanka's batting woes
    "We have to keep winning as a unit. People have come in and it's about confidence that you can beat anyone in any condition. People say you never win away from home in the past, you struggle when you travel and when it's spinning, but we've shown now we can win in any conditions.."
    Liam Plunkett is pleased for his team-mates after rejoining the squad in the wake of his wedding

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @miller_cricket