The halcyon days of 1996 when Sri Lanka ruled the cricketing world are just a distant memory now, as they strive to keep their hopes alive in the 2019 edition with a win on Friday against tournament favourites England.
The ‘Lions’ have had their fair share of bad luck so far in this competition having had two of their five matches abandoned due to rain (W1, L2), while their one victory over competition minnows Afghanistan came via DLS (34-run win).
Regardless of their bad luck, they have been poor in all three disciplines so far. Their fielding has been shoddy, their bowling mediocre (14 wickets in three matches), but moreover their biggest problem remains the dire performance of their middle order batsmen – who are yet to produce anything like their potential with numbers four through to seven scoring just 58 runs between them in their 12 combined innings.
Sri Lanka come into this match on the back of a 87-run defeat against Australia. Set 335 to win, they fell woefully short and were dismissed for just 247, making it eight losses in ten completed matches (W2). Only captain Dimuth Karunaratne (97) and fellow opener Kusal Perera (52) made any significant contributions with the bat.
England (W4, L1) won their ninth ODI in ten completed matches when they beat Afghanistan by 150 runs at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Among the many records broken in that match, they posted a ground ODI highest score record of 397/6. Fifties from Jonny Bairstow (90) and Joe Root (88) were overshadowed by Eoin Morgan, who notched up his 13th ODI century with a magnificent 148 including a World Cup record for most sixes (17). Jofra Archer was the pick of the bowlers, returning figures of 3/52 as the opposition mustered just 247/8 in reply.
There are injury concerns for England with their main opener Jason Roy still sidelined with a hamstring niggle, while Morgan has a sore back. There is talk in the press of Alex Hales replacing Roy, but Morgan has been quick to state they have no immediate plans to change the squad.
Probable Playing XI
James Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (C), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (WK), Moeen Ali, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer.
Dimuth Karunaratne (C), Kusal Perera (WK), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Isuru Udana, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Pradeep.
ENG vs SL – Players to watch out for
Angelo Mathews (SRI) has scored nine runs in three innings. With the highest ODI score of 139* and an ODI average of 41.10, he is overdue a big score.
Jofra Archer (ENG) has already taken 12 wickets at 18.08 apiece with his 90 mph plus deliveries.
England average 59.4 in the first Powerplay compared to Sri Lanka’s 72.33.
Morgan has captained England in 105 ODIs and won the toss 49 times (46.67%), while Dimuth Karunaratne has captained Sri Lanka in four ODIs and won the toss just once (25%).
England have smashed 47 sixes in their five matches averaging 9.40 per match, while over three games Sri Lanka (seven) average just 2.33.
Sri Lanka have lost their middle order (4-7) for five or fewer combined runs twice in this tournament. Before that, it had happened on only five occasions in the entirety of ODI cricket.