England v Sri Lanka
Thursday 1 July, 13:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England are 1-0 up with two games to play. But should it have been as ‘close’ as a five-wicket success? Didn’t they rather make a mess of a simple chase?
England should be destroying this Sri Lanka outfit. That they didn’t in game one at the Riverside may well have been down to complacency.
On the face of it, England bowled superbly to bowl out Sri Lanka for 187. But it was probably above par for the ability in the Sri Lanka line-up. Chris Woakes (remember him?) took four wickets.
When Jonny Bairstow got the reply off to a blazing start it looked as though England were in a hurry but failures for Liam Livingstone, Eoin Morgan and Sam Billings made it rather a struggle. Moeen Ali, for example, struck at 49 in an apparent rescue mission.
Tom Curran and George Garton stand-by in case England reckon Woakes or Mark Wood need a rest. Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer are unavailable.
Possible XI Bairstow, Livingstone, Root, Morgan, Billings, Moeen, S Curran, Willey, Woakes, Rashid, Wood
Sri Lanka fight
Kudos to Sri Lanka, then, who showed admirable guts and determination in impossible circumstances. It is hard to think of a team which has come into a game with such monumental problems.
A historic player drain, pay dispute and a squad ravaged by injury and bubble breaches was on a hammering to nothing. They were only able to field two specialist batsmen – Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Perera – with the two Fernandos, Avishka and Oshada, injured and Niroshan Dickwella, Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis sent home for breaking Covid rules. From Nos 3 to 7 they batted all-rounders. Dasun Shanaka was in first down.
At one stage they were doing nicely. But from 145 for three they understandably lost their way. Expect more of the same throughout the series, shorting runs when they get any sort of paertnership. Rather surprisingly there was no room for Dhananjaya de Silva or Isuru Udana.
Possible XI Nissanka, K Perera, Shanaka, Hasaranga, Lakshan, Mendis, Karunaratne, B Fernando, Chameera, Jayawickarama,
The Oval has a reputation for being flat and full of runs. Judging on the pitches from the 2019 World Cup season, that is fair. That summer the four first-innings scores read (1-2 denote match won batting first or second): 311-1/330-1/244-2/352-1/334-1.
The innings runs market is our best chance of finding value, particularly as we expect England to turn the screw. There will be an expectation that if they bat first, they will target something huge.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the data. In the last two years England have batted first six times and busted 320 twice. Over three years they have busted 320 eight times out of 16 with an average run rate of 6.39. Backing 320 or more at even money would represent value, then. We may have to pay ten runs higher, though. For higher numbers like 350 or more keep fingers crossed for 2/1.
Wait on Lanka trade
Sri Lanka were 8.6015/2 for game one. They are now out to 11.0010/1. They’re getting closer to the sort of number that it may be hard to turn down a trade.
It comes with a caveat, though. Sri Lanka would have to bowl first and pick up cheap wickets again. It may be better to wait for Bristol, though, because one could feel like a mug backing the team bowling first in south London.
Perera has for the second game in a row been boosted for top Sri Lanka bat. He has almost nothing to beat so it’s risky for Sportsbook. He copped in Durham and this time goes off at 3/1.
Joe Root returned to England one-day colours with a top-bat win. He is 5/2. The value is probably with the destructive Bairstow at 13/5. Livingstone, who was 14/1 before the team was named, opened the batting with the Yorkshireman. He is now 3/1.
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