On-song Sri Lanka pose threat in shortened format

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 00:31 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

ESPNCricinfo: The most recent shot played in contests between England and Sri Lanka was a vast six over midwicket, as Kusal Mendis dispatched Joe Root’s offspin into the Tavern Stand during the soggy last rites of the third Test at Lord’s. An irrelevance in the bigger picture, maybe, after England’s thumping victories in the first two Tests at Headingley and Chester-le-Street, but an indication nonetheless of a squad with renewed confidence.

It has taken them several weeks to come to terms with the challenge of English conditions, but as the tour shifts focus from the five-day to the one-day formats, so too has the distance between the sides narrowed. Sri Lanka’s valiant showing in that Lord’s Test has been followed up by a brace of thumping victories over Ireland in Dublin - precisely the sort of challenge for which a demoralised outfit might have struggled to raise itself.


England’s Eoin Morgan (L) and Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews with the Royal London One-Day Series trophy Action Images via Reuters

Instead, they enter the first ODI against England at Trent Bridge with expectation as well as hope. On the 2014 tour, they picked up the spoils in all three formats and though the Tests have eluded them time around, their draw at Lord’s has at least left the nascent Super Series with the faintest of pulses. Sri Lanka trail 10-2 with 12 points still up for grabs in the coming six matches - therefore a 5-0 clean sweep (as Sri Lanka achieved on the 2006 tour) would leave the fate of the series hanging on next month’s one-off T20.

Sri Lanka have, however, suffered another shocking moment of misfortune where their bowling attack is concerned, with the news of Shaminda Eranga’s hospitalisation for an irregular heartbeat. He would have been ruled out of the series anyway, after the ICC confirmed on Sunday that his bowling action - reported as suspect during the Durham Test - has been found to be illegal, but such health concerns make other issues pale into insignificance.

With Dhammika Prasad and Dushmantha Chameera already ruled out of the tour with injury, Sri Lanka’s fast-bowling stocks are running alarmingly low. That said, Dasun Shanaka’s wobbly seamers were an incisive threat against Ireland, and with a glut of allrounders in their ranks, Sri Lanka are adept at cobbling together combinations for all conditions. England, who have lost each of their last three ODIs, following the collapse of their resolve against South Africa earlier this year, will be taking little for granted.