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England v Sri Lanka ICC Championship preview

England’s performance against Australia last Saturday was hard to fault. Their judgement of the pitch and the opposition was spot on as the Reds efficiently made their way to a decent total before the superb bowling unit squeezed the life out of the Aussie reply.

Everything appears to be going to plan for Alastair Cook’s boys and Coral rate them 7/2 second favourites to win the tournament ahead of their second game against Sri Lanka at the Oval tomorrow.

But critics are finding fault with England in one area and that is the rate at which the top order is scoring to set up a platform for the big hitters in the closing overs.

Eoin Morgan and Joss Buttler showed what they can do when blasting 82 runs off the final five overs against New Zealand recently, but when the fireworks don’t go off – and they didn’t against Australia – then England can find themselves defending a vulnerable score.

The finger of blame has been pointed mainly at Jonathan Trott, but his strike rate statistics are only a little way behind Cook’s and actually a little in front of Ian Bell’s.

England’s template, if batting first, seems to be to score at around five runs an over for the first 40 overs before the likes of Morgan and Buttler step on the gas.

Getting these top order batsmen to speed things up a little is more easily said than done and nobody should expect Jonathan Trott to turn into Jonathan Gallop overnight; indeed putting pressure on him to do so would probably be counter-productive. But maybe that run rate could increase to, say, five and a half an over (an extra 20 runs), especially against strong batting sides such as Sri Lanka, who have the firepower to chase down 300 plus totals.

Trott is 7/2 with Coral to be England’s leading scorer and that’s a fair price when one considers his excellent ODI average (over 50), but England (8/13) will perhaps need to get a bit more of a move on in the early stages if they are to beat Sri Lanka (13/10) and book their semi-final place.

India’s superb win over the West Indies yesterday cemented their place in the last four and they look worthy favourites (15/8) with Coral to go all the way.

England, though, are showing signs of peaking at just the right time for a first ever triumph in this tournament and if all goes to form we could be set for a mouth-watering showdown with India at Edgbaston on June 23rd.

Written by Jon Freeman