Be canny on innings runs bets

England v Sri Lanka
Saturday 26 June 14.30
TV: live on Sky Sports

Does Buttler miss out?

England have the series in the bag already. Their biggest headache, then, could be working out who to pick. Jos Buttler missed game two because of a calf strain and Chris Woakes, according to England skip Eoin Morgan, “can’t play two games in two days.” Go figure.

One wonders whether the likes of Buttler and Woakes have played so little cricket this summer that they’re picking up fitness issues because of lack of rigour. Buttler will surely miss out again with bigger fish to fry this summer. Woakes? That’s anyone’s guess.

If Woakes can’t play two in two it is doubtful as to whether Mark Wood can play three in four. Tom Curran, Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson have all been unused so far so could get a game.

Possible XI Roy, Bairstow, Malan, Morgan, Livingstone, Billings, S Curran, Jordan, Willey, Woakes, Rashid

Sri Lanka outclassed

Sri Lanka rather surprisingly made two changes for game two. One would have thought it might be a good idea to give the whole XI a second go at getting to grips with conditions. Instead Dhananjaya de Silva and Nuwan Pradeep were replaced by Niroshan Dickwella and Binura Fernando.

Changes in personnel are unlikely to make a difference to the chasm between the sides. Coach Mickey Arthur reminded everyone that England are the No 1-ranked side and Sri Lanka are ninth.

Still, it makes little sense for Sri Lanka to be cautious. Their intent with the bat has been better suited to trying to bat out a Test for a draw. Only one player in their total of 111 in Cardiff struck at more than 100. Isuru Udana’s 19 from 14.

Possible XI Gunathilaka, Avishka, Kusal, Mendis, Dickwella, Shanaka, Udana, Hasaranga, Akila, Chameera, B Fernando

Pitch report

The last eight first-innings scores at the Ageas Bowl (1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second) read: 141-1/138-2/168-1/182-2/159-1/145-2/157-2/162-1. We have listed the last eight because they were all last year. No Blast matches have been possible this term.

A par score from those numbers is 157. With batting often tricky, it rather curbs our enthusiasm to start piling on at big numbers for England to bust 190, 200, 210. At least the weather forecast is good.

Still, there might be a bit of value around given their patchy effort. As for historic ground form, a total of 160-odd against a decent side may well be worth 190 against this lot. We might get 2.305/4 or better.

With Sri Lanka’s batting so feeble, going low on innings runs isn’t the shrewd move it was at the start of the series. For them, 120 is a good score and the market is wise to that. There is likely to remain low-risk wagers, however for under 80, 90 and 100.

In-play, expect a Lanka collapse. They were 76 for three in the second match. Any sort of reasonable start can mean we can take on innings runs lays.

Last summer England Australia met three times with the highest first-innings score at 162. England won the series 2-1.

Trade plays in short supply

England did their best to make a game of it in the second match in Cardiff with careless batting. At 36 for four chasing 111 there was the glimmer of a contest. Sam Billings and Liam Livingstone, picking up the easiest man of the match award ever for an unbeaten 29, saw to that.

The hosts are 1.152/13 for this one with Sri Lanka 7.06/1. If England were to bat first and first-innings form at the venue remained steadfast, only then might you get some trade option on the big price.

Tops value

The value for top England batsman surely remains with the opening batsmen. Jason Roy really should have had it sewn up before his mistimed in game two. He goes off at 11/4. Jonny Bairstow, expected to open with Buttler injured, has been price-boosted to 3/1. That is very big indeed.

For Sri Lanka we note the 5/1 about Pathun Nissanka. Nissanka is yet to play and with Sri Lankan batting so slow, he could give impetus. If he plays, he opens so it could be a big rick.

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