Eoin Morgan will lead England in the absence of regular skipper Alastair Cook © Getty Images
Eoin Morgan (above) will lead England in the absence of regular skipper Alastair Cook © Getty Images

By Shiamak Unwalla

Dec 6, 2014

Sri Lanka will clash with England in the fourth of the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series at Colombo on Sunday. The hosts lead the series 2-1, but with England coming back strongly in the third game, the distance between the two sides will be markedly less.

A single win has upset the apple cart. Sri Lanka, one of the most successful sides of 2014, were expected to steamroll their opponents easily. But to England’s credit, they ran the Lankans close in the opening encounter thanks to a fantastic ton from Moeen Ali before finally pulling off a win in the third match.

What England’s victory will have done is boost their confidence and cause Sri Lanka to pull up their socks. Mahela Jayawardene’s absence — due to personal reasons — was conspicuous as the Lankan batsmen failed to make good on their starts. Whether he will feature in the fourth match remains to be seen.

For England, captain Alastair Cook’s one-match ban due to overrate might just be a blessing in disguise. Cook’s form in both ODIs and Tests has been far from ideal in the last couple of years, and the likes of Ian Botham and Kevin Pietersen have been calling for his head. With him sitting out, a more attacking batsman could take his place, and if all goes well for England, Cook will feel the heat. In his absence Eoin Morgan will lead the visitors.

Moeen has looked England’s best batsman by some margin, and his presence at the top has ensured England do not get off to sluggish starts. Joe Root, Ravi Bopara, and Jos Buttler have scored runs as well, which makes England’s batting look significantly more impressive than it did earlier in the year.

On the other hand, barring the usual duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene, the Lankans have not looked the dominant batting side they are used to being. In the wake of their 5-0 whitewash against India, if they lose this match, warning bells are sure to start ringing. Overall, Sri Lanka are still the favourites, but England have proven themselves more than capable of holding their own. Colombo is likely to see an evenly-contested game.

Squads:

Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kushal Janith Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews (c), Thilina Kandamby, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Dhammika Prasad, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Mahela Jayawardene.

England: Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Steven Finn, James Anderson, James Tradewell, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Harry Gurney.

Time:  04:30 GMT | 10:00 IST

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)