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A more competitive Sri Lanka

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Sri_Lanka_England_series_cricket_Test_ODI_T20IAfter a dismal performance in 2-0 Test series loss in trying English conditions for a month, the smaller island nation had finally managed to put the hosts up against the wall in the 1st ODI, only to squander the opportunity to win their first game since they have landed in England.

A Test series which had too few positives for their liking, the Lankans finally felt at ease with the shorter format in the picture and the same was evident in their performance. Batting first on a pitch where England easily managed to chase 350 against New Zealand, Lanka scored a modest 286 runs with their batting clicking only in patches at best. However, while defending, the length their bowlers bowled persistently led to the undoing of an English batting line up which was no walkover. At 82-6 England were reeling, but credit to their batting depth. They still had a chance in the game albeit an outside one. After decent a comeback thanks to knocks from Buttler and Woakes, they were struggling again once Buttler departed. Finally it was a bit of smart work from Woakes and Liam Plunkett which saved England some blushing as they managed to tie the game.

England ODI captain, Eoin Morgan, acknowledged their bad performance, saying “We were lucky to get out of this game with a tie. That was as bad as we have performed with the bat over the past year.”

England:

England will be looking to better their performance from here with the remaining ODIs. The opening pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales has certainly done well in providing decent starts. But if we look at last 10 ODIs, Jason Roy has a century and half century but the other contributions have been too brief for England’s liking.

His contributions have been far too analogous to the Sehwag’s ODI contribution for India i.e. lacking consistency. However, his opening partner, Alex Hales, has been one of the most consistent batsman in ODIs with his last 10 ODIs including two centuries and four half centuries (which includes a 99). Though not as brisk as he used to be when he first came into the England side, he anchors the innings from the start and usually grinds through the difficult phases.

Their indispensible number three, Joe Root, has been phenomenal in all the formats. He has been the mainstay of this England batting line up though he has had a relatively quiet Test series against Lanka with only one half century in the four innings he batted.

The unique thing about this England ODI line up is the depth they have which was displayed in the first ODI with the each and every player of the XI able to handle the bat with some authenticity. Though the depth in the batting and bowling adds an extra cushion for the team management, Moeen Ali has been mild in the ODIs. Coming down the order, he has not managed to accelerate the innings. His bowling too has been a little off. In the last five ODIs he has managed to take just three wickets. With the pitches not assisting spin, playing two spinners might not be a prudent option for England.

Sri Lanka:

It’s no secret that Sri Lanka is still recovering after two stalwarts of Sri Lankan cricket, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, retired from international cricket after the World Cup 2015. Since the world cup, Sri Lanka have played four bilateral ODI series against Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies and Ireland, winning only against Ireland and West Indies. Looking at the positives for them in the matches they have played in England and Ireland: Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and all-rounders Seekkuge Prasanna, with his breezy innings 59 off 29 in the 1st ODI and 95 off 46 against Ireland coming at number 3, and Dasun Shanaka.

With the strategy of including more than one genuine all rounder in the team, the role of all rounders have become all the more crucial. In the bowling department it was Nuwan Pradeep who impressed with his seam movement in the Test series, managing to pry out 10 wickets. However, if it weren’t for Sri Lanka’s sloppy fielding and an umpiring howler he would have taken some more and definitely would have had his name on the Honour’s Board at Lord’s.

Venues of the series:

>> Edgbaston, Birmingham: The venue for the 2nd ODI has not had best weather in the past few days. The last three ODIs here included a run fest and two low scoring games with scores of 408, 206 and 219 respectively.

>> Bristol: The last ODI played here was in 2010. England doesn’t have happy memories at this ground having been beaten by Bangladesh in 2010. Two games played here in Royal One Day Cup saw scores of 254(1)/211(2) and 352(1)/342(2). The pitch has certainly become better for batting.

>> The Oval: The venue for the 4th ODI saw the run fest which included scores of 398 in the 1st and 365 in the 2nd innings. Of the last three ODIs here, teams batting first won on two occasions. Scores of 398(1)/365(2), 247(1)/144(2) and 175(1)/179(2) were scored.

>> Cardiff: The venue for the 5th ODI has been good for batting and spinners too which Lanka might enjoy. Scores of 304(1)/161(2), 227(1)/231(2) and 181(1)/182(2) were scored in the last three ODIs here. In the Royal One Day Cup 2016 three matches played till now have been won by team batting first.

With Sri Lanka sweating over the fitness of their captain and England working towards striking the right balance of their team, the ODI series promises to be a more competitive one than the Test series.

 

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