Sri Lanka vs England, 1st ODI: World Cup fine-tuning in focus at soggy Dambulla
Dinesh Chandimal and Eoin Morgan have different issues to cope with in the series. @Getty

In demanding conditions, top-ranked England will front up to a somewhat downcast Sri Lanka as they make a return to ODI cricket for the first time since July in the first of five matches at Dambulla on Wednesday. With February the deadline for teams to name their 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup squads, these five matches between Sri Lanka and England are precious for both teams – each of whom are at contrasting places.

The last time England toured Sri Lanka was in 2014, when the fortunes of the two teams were vastly different. Then, England lost the ODIs 2-5 on the path to a dismal 2015 World Cup as it struggled to cope with the demands of the game’s speed. Since Eoin Morgan was named ODI skipper after the last World Cup, England have won 13 of 17 bilateral ODI series to surge to No 1 in the ICC rankings. Driving this dramatic white-ball upsurge has been a core group of players that toured Sri Lanka for four years ago and will know what is required to succeed this time, all with an eye on the World Cup.

Morgan’s team claimed a 43-run win on the Duckworth/Lewis method over strong Sri Lankan Board President’s XI in Colombo on Friday, after which rain washed out the second tour match to deny them valuable match practice. The visitors will hope this does not prove too crippling when they meet Dinesh Chandimal’s Sri Lanka in the series opener at a venue at which the hosts have won 25 of 41 completed ODIs.

Sri Lanka have reappointed Chandimal as captain with Angelo Mathews removed as skipper  in controversial circumstances, and made some changes to the team that exited the recent Asia Cup with successive defeats to Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Sri Lanka have slipped to eighth in the ODI rankings after a poor run in ODIs over the past two years, in which time they have lost bilateral series to South Africa (twice), Pakistan (twice), India (twice) and to Zimbabwe at home last year.

Rain threatens to play spoilsport in Dambulla where wet conditions have meant the entire field has been covered.

Date: October 10

Venue: Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium

Time: 14:30 IST

Weather: Cloudy with a high of 28 degrees. Humidity at 76%

Team News

Sri Lanka 

With the talented Kusal Mendis axed after a lean run of form, the one-down spot should go to Kusal Perera or Dhananjaya de Silva who both batted there in the recent past. The recalled Niroshan Dickwella should open with Upul Tharanga, leaving Chandimal to bolster the middle order after recovering from injury.

Niroshan Dickwella could slot in for Sri Lanka on Wednesday
Niroshan Dickwella could slot in for Sri Lanka on Wednesday. @AFP

Nuwan Pradeep has returned at the expense of Suranga Lakmal and will compliment Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera and Thisara Perera who claimed five wickets in Sri Lanka’s last ODI. Sadeera Samawickrama could return in the middle order for the first time since December 2017.

Probable XI: 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Kusal Perera, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (captain/wk), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Nuwan Pradeep, 11 Lasith Malinga

England

Four of England’s squad have had no match practice on tour – Alex Hales, Liam Dawson and Tom and Sam Curran. The uncapped Warwickshire quick Olly Stone played the first tour match alongside Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Ben Stokes. Stone went wicketless in six tidy overs while Woakes conceded 55 in his six overs without taking a wicket, so there is a chance that the management turn to the Curran brothers for the first time in an international match.

Tom Curran is hoping to make one spot his own ahead of the World Cup.
Tom Curran is hoping to make one spot his own ahead of the World Cup. @Getty

Hales looks set to sit out with the pair of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow forming the opening act and Dawson looks unlikely to add to his solitary ODI cap earned in 2016 with Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid the spin-bowling front-liners.

Probable XI: 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/Sam Curran, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Olly Stone/Tom Curran

Statistics

- England have played five ODIs in Dambulla, losing three and winning two.

- Root is 200 runs shy of becoming the fourth England player to 5000 runs in ODIs.

- Of the current England squad, only two bowlers have taken 100 ODI wickets – Rashid (113) and Woakes (109).

- Tharanga (674) and Chandimal (549) are the only current Sri Lanka batsman with over 350 runs in ODIs versus England.

- Of this Sri Lankan squad, Thisara Perera (58) and Tharanga (52) have hit the most sixes followed by Kusal Perera (45).

Quotes

“We’ve had a lot of rain so far. Some days are red hot, sweaty humid conditions, and quite nice to bowl in and there are some days when it’s rained a lot and it’s coming from the ground up. It’s different conditions to deal with.” – Mark Wood