Can Sri Lanka get out of their rut?

Olly Stone puts his back into training
Sri Lanka v England, 3rd ODI, Dambulla October 16, 2018

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The rain in Dambulla could not prevent a result this time, and it could not rescue Sri Lanka from yet another defeat in ODIs (a record that now reads 31 of their last 41 completed matches). Dhananjaya de Silva and Thisara Perera did at least threaten to give England a Duckworth-Lewis-Stern headache - though in truth, the early damage at 31 for 4 and 74 for 5 was too great - while Lasith Malinga shook out his curls in a vintage display of death bowling, but England held the edge to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

The teams have now moved to the hill country of Kandy, where the third and fourth ODIs will be played. England have won at the Pallekele International Stadium before, inspired by a Joe Root hundred, but it was also where the 2014 series slipped out of their reach, as Kumar Sangakkara basked in the adulation of his home crowd and set Sri Lanka up for a 4-2 lead with one to play. How Dinesh Chandimal's side could do with some Kandyan magic this time around.

Having battled their way up to 278 for 9, in spite of Malinga's slow-motion full-bunger bombardment, England will have been pleased at successfully "gritting it out", as Jonny Bairstow put it during the build-up, in order to set a competitive total. The new-ball pair of Chris Woakes (who took a six-for in Pallekele four years ago) and Olly Stone then blew away the Sri Lanka top order, to make what could have been a tricky defence appear comfortable.

However, an injury suffered by Liam Dawson during his spell of 6-0-26-1, hurried through as England looked to make sure they completed 20 overs before the rains came, means they will have to make a change for the third ODI. Playing three spinners is not a familiar strategy for England, and they may look at the results enjoyed by Woakes and Stone in Dambulla and conclude that more pace is the way to go. England's one-day side have seemingly boundless confidence, but they will need to be on their guard; with more iffy weather in prospect, that could be a leveller as Sri Lanka look to level the contest.

Form guide

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

England WWWLW

In the spotlight

On Saturday Lasith Malinga proved he still had all the old moves - those slower balls, those pinpoint yorkers, that 140kph reverse swing. Through the remainder of the series, he must prove he has the stamina. During the Asia Cup, he took four wickets in his first match in over a year, but was less effective in the match against Afghanistan 48 hours later. He has more time to recover in between games during this series, of course, but if the second ODI is any indication, he will be called upon to deliver long spells of up to five overs at the death, and may be required to do so game after game. Whether he can maintain Saturday's intensity through the series remains to be seen.

England's first peek at Stone in international competition could scarcely have been more enjoyable. The Warwickshire man bounced out Niroshan Dickwella and touched 90mph during an opening spell of 4-0-7-1, instantly giving England's pace attack another exciting option as they prepare for a home World Cup. Stone's arrival has meant no place for Mark Wood, virtually an ever-present in the 50-over side during the summer, while England also have the varied skills of the Curran brothers in reserve. With Woakes instantly clicking back into the form that made him Man of the Series in New Zealand last winter, Liam Plunkett due back for the final two ODIs in Sri Lanka, and David Willey recuperating from injury, they are building up some decent depth.

Team news

Kusal Perera has suffered a quad strain, meaning Sadeera Samarawickrama is set to play his fourth ODI and first in 10 months.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 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

With Dawson's replacement, Joe Denly, only arriving in Pallekele on the morning of the match, there is likely to be a change in the make-up of the side. Sam Curran's left-arm angle (and extra batting) might get him the nod.

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 Sam Curran/Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Olly Stone

Pitch and conditions

The weather forecast for Wednesday is not promising, with thunderstorms predicted to arrive in the afternoon. The drainage at this ground is generally good, however, and there is a chance of getting a shortened match so long as the showers cease early enough. The pitch itself is likely to be fairly good for batting, but there does tend to be something for the new-ball bowlers at this venue.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have lost four of their last five ODIs at Pallekele. The victory came in the most recent of those games, against South Africa. That match was a dead rubber though, and South Africa had rested key players.

  • Since his return in September, following over a year out of international cricket, Malinga has 10 wickets at an average of 17, with an economy rate of 4.85, across the 35 overs he has bowled.

  • Bairstow became the first batsman to complete 1000 ODI runs in 2018 in Dambulla, but the two men just below him on that list are also England batsmen. Joe Root and Jason Roy have 896 and 804 runs respectively.

  • Chris Woakes has not gone wicketless in the last 11 ODIs he has played. In that period, he has taken 21 wickets at an average of 23.57, with an economy rate of 5.21.


"If we don't lose two or three wickets in the first 10 overs, we will get ourselves to a much better position. Forty for no loss should be the target."
Dasun Shanaka targets a better start from the Sri Lanka top order

"You sometimes kind of think, I would love to be opening but the way the guys have played over a few years now there's not a single one I look at think I should be batting ahead of... I've got to make an impact at number seven."
Moeen Ali muses on his lot, four years after scoring a 72-ball hundred opening the batting in Colombo

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