Sri Lanka vs England | Wednesday 03 November | Hambantota | 11:00
There were no celebrations for the English and their maligned captain in Colombo. Much of the life had left the pitch following a high-scoring first encounter and the tourists slumped to 185 all out in their second attempt. The runs came from 43 painful overs, after an early morning drizzle had ensured that the match be reduced to 45 overs a side. Sri Lanka coasted to an easy victory, taking a 2-0 series lead with five matches left to play. It has been somewhat miraculous that two mostly full matches have been played so far, Sri Lanka’s monsoon season making abandonments almost a guarantee. Indeed, there’s rain forecast for jungle-like Hambantota, but deciding on the outcome of the weather will be far more difficult than finding a winner here.
Sri Lanka 5/10
The hosts ensured a fairly straightforward run chase for their seasoned campaigners as their spin contingent managed to choke the life out of the England innings. In fact, of the seven Sri Lankan bowlers used, none went for six-an-over or more and only one, Jeevan Mendis, returned to the dressing room wicketless. The enigmatic Tillakaratne Dilshan opened the bowling against an English top order deemed fragile against spin and such was his impact and over-by-over improvement, he was asked to bowl through. Four spinners were used by Sri Lanka on a Colombo pitch that proved difficult for stroke play, and while all will probably not be necessary at the looming World Cup, in such conditions it rendered England toothless.
In pursuit, Sri Lanka lost openers Kusal Perera and Dilshan fairly early, but it only served to present Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene with the chance to rack up their fifteenth century stand in one-day internationals. While the former looked uncharacteristically scrappy on his way to 67 not out (a happy conundrum for sure), the latter stroked his way to an unbeaten 77 in sublime fashion. Unfortunately, Jayawardene will miss the third ODI at his request, for personal reasons. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka possess confident leadership in the form of Angelo Mathews, who would be my choice to move up the order. He has shown mental strength in bouncing back well from a trouncing in India and will relish the opportunity for more time at the crease.
Taunted by spin, slain by seam, England can’t seem to get anything right. From world beaters to World Cup nobodies, this England side must have suffered the most rude and abrupt fall from grace in the modern game to date. After ‘that’ fateful Ashes ripped the squad apart, the replacement guard has flittered from one failure to another, all the while renewing the “we’re trying hard” mantra. No-one expects anything less. No-one is suggesting that the players are losing on purpose. All that cricket pundits request in a modicum of self-analysation as opposed to widespread self-delusion.
Captain Alastair Cook has been twenty months without an ODI hundred. As an opening batsman, he is failing at his job. Sure, many captains have been persisted with during lean times, so long as they still produce results or command some sort of respect from the opposition and team members. He fails in the second department as well. And while I wouldn’t rule out a return to form for Cook, I do believe he needs time away from international cricket to get back to the drawing board. Five defeats in the last six ODIs make for pretty dismal reading. But perhaps the biggest problem in the camp is the fact that the three most senior batsmen are all in woeful form. Eoin Morgan can barely buy a run while Ian Bell is yet to score a half-century batting at three. And to add insult to injury, half of the batting order departed in ways eerily similar to their dismissals in the first ODI. The side lacks the capacity to learn from mistakes, which is crucial in this game. Ravi Bopara was once again admirable in a losing cause, himself and Moeen Ali representing some sort of hope for this side.
As mentioned, rain is forecast for Hambantota so the likelihood of a full match hangs in the balance. That being said, a reduction in overs would still likely suit the powerful home side. In terms of pitch, it will likely play a bit better for batsmen and offer a little for the seamers early on. It’s usually one of the quicker pitches in the country.
VERDICT: Sri Lanka 5/10
There’s no need to punt for an upset here. If England are to turn things around, it’s unlikely to happen at a ground that they have never played at. Sri Lanka have a strong record in Hambantota, with five wins from eleven completed matches, and should have enough to get over the line again.
Disagree with our tipster? Let us hear your thoughts. Please comment below.