England out for revenge against Sri Lanka in World Cup warm-up
ICC World Cup 2015 joint-fourth favourites Sri Lanka and England (both 8/1 with Coral) warm up for the 50-over tournament, which takes place from February, with a seven-match ODI series against each other in the South Asian nation.
The Indian Ocean island beat England 3-2 overall on their own turf earlier on in the year, and go into this series as series as odds-on 4/9 favourites, and 4/7 for the opening encounter in their capital city, Colombo.
Peter Moores’ men come into this battle after an inconsistent summer, in which they beat India in a Test series and one-off Twenty20 international, but lost to them 3-1 in a five-match ODI.
As a result of England’s failings in the 50-over format of the game, there were calls from cricketing legends for captain Alastair Cook to step down from his position and even from the team, to concentrate on his Test career.
However, the talented opening batsman stubbornly waved off his critics and will lead his nation into the World Cup. Cook needs to somehow get his once world beaters back to full confidence and beat Sri Lanka, if they are to stand any chance of impressing at the finals in New Zealand and Australia.
Captain Cook said ahead of the match: “There is a World Cup at the end of it, but we are here to try and win this series.” He then added, after Sachithra Senanayake controversially ran out Jos Buttler in England: “I think we owe you [Sri Lanka] a little bit of revenge.”
Also speaking in the lead up to the encounter was elder England statesman Ian Bell (4/1 top England batsman in first ODI), who said: “Stats-wise, I get told in the first 10 [overs] we’re the same as anyone else in the world. So I don’t necessarily agree we don’t go hard at the top [of the order].
“But the importance of partnerships is huge in any one-day cricket. So that we’re building and can then ‘explode’ at the end.
“We’ll have to be adaptable [to conditions] but want to play a positive, aggressive brand of cricket as well.”
For the hosts, meanwhile, skipper Angelo Mathews, who will be without star bowler Lasith Malinga, said: “We need to get back into our groove. We want to look at players whom we think need to be looked at and whom we think will go on the World Cup.
“It’s very important that we sort out our bowlers and also the batting order. By the end of the series we should have a very clear idea of whom we want to take to the World Cup.”
All-rounder Matthews is a 9/2 chance in both top batsman and bowler markets for Sri Lanka in this first ODI.
Squads for seven-match ODI series:
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeevan Mendis, Thilina Kandamby, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Gamage.