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England favourite against dark horse Sri Lanka

A win for Sri Lanka could throw Group A wide open, but the batsmen need to put up a better show

England favourite against dark horse Sri Lanka - Cricket News
England has to watch out for in-form Lasith Malinga.
A dismal net run rate makes things fairly straightforward for Sri Lanka – lose to England, and the team may as well pack its bags. Given that England has won 16 and lost just six of 25 home One-Day Internationals since Alastair Cook took over the captaincy after the 2011 World Cup, you might think that the task in front of Angelo Mathews’ side at The Oval on Thursday (June 13) is even more intimidating.
 
But since it came of age as a team in the 1990s, Sri Lanka has won more than it has lost (9-8) against England in England. It led a five-match series two years ago, and lost only in a close finish at Old Trafford. The spinners have generally troubled English batsmen hesitant to leave the crease, while Lasith Malinga, who nearly pulled off a heist against New Zealand, has an outstanding record in the United Kingdom – 23 wickets at 21 from 11 games.
 
On an Oval surface where every team other than India has struggled so far in this competition, it’ll be Sri Lanka’s batting that comes under most scrutiny. New Zealand didn’t have to bowl especially well in Cardiff last weekend to topple Sri Lanka for 138. Mathews was diplomatic at the press conference, but some of the shot selection was awful, strokes played with no heed paid to the match situation.
 
The batsmen can do much better. Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal and Kumar Sangakkara all played innings of note on that 2011 tour, and Tillakaratne Dilshan can transform a game if he gets off to a flying start. What Sri Lanka will need is significant contributions from the likes of Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne, especially if the conditions continue to be gloomy and bowler-friendly.
 
The bowlers did superbly against New Zealand and the only choice Mathews faces is whether to stick with the extra pace of Shaminda Eranga, or bring in the more experienced Nuwan Kulasekara. Malinga and Rangana Herath will be the main threats, though England will be wary of Dilshan after his spell against New Zealand.
 
After the emphatic win against Australia, England’s preparation for this game was overshadowed by the David Warner-Joe Root story. England's bowling was exceptional in that game and though James Anderson and company may not find reverse swing so early at The Oval, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma showed that there’s enough in the pitch for those that bowl the right lengths.
 
With Graeme Swann fit again, James Tredwell will miss out. Swann will have enough left-handers to aim at, and it should be a keen contest against batsmen unlikely to allow him to settle.
 
England’s batting tends far more to the steady than the spectacular, though it’ll be fascinating to see how Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan deal with Malinga. Dishant Yagnik of Rajasthan Royals rattled him by taking guard way back in his crease, and if England has watched those tapes, you could well see something similar from Buttler, whose inventiveness has been a breath of fresh air in a team well stocked with those that play by the book.
 
England starts favourite, but with Malinga in the form that he is, all Sri Lanka need is for the top order to find some runs. That could really throw this group wide open.

Teams:
England (likely): Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson.
 
Sri Lanka (likely): Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Rangana Herath, Shaminda Eranga, Lasith Malinga.

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