Ed Hawkins previews game four with the hosts desperate for a win to keep the series alive in Palleke on Saturday
"A 20-over contest is far more likely. And England are not the best in the world at that"
Sri Lanka v England
Saturday 20 October
TV: live on Sky Sports
Sri Lanka slip
Sri Lanka are 2-0 down with two to play. It's make or break time. They are perfectly used to being in such positions with a record of nine defeats in their last series. Any suggestion they will suddenly kickstart into gear on the idea that there's more to play for can be dismissed.
The problem has been their batting. But for a spell in game three in Pallekele they looked to have solved the problem. Upul Tharanga was dropped and the new opening combination of Niroshan Dickwella and Sadeera Samarawickrama looked like making a game of it. Dickwella hit 36 off 25 balls and by the end of the first powerplay in a 21-over game they were 58 for one.
A stiff target was on the cards even at 94 for two in the 12th only for Sri Lanka to fall away badly. Samarawickrama and Thisara Perera fell in successive balls. Dinesh Chandimal then laboured to 34 off 42.
After the game Dickwella said you can't win a match defending 151. Well, you can. It's just hard to do it against an England team who are supreme chasers and an attack low on confidence.
Denly may have to wait
England look set to field the same XI which won with seven wickets in the hutch. That means Joe Denly will have to wait for his return to the ODI team. With conditions set to be wet again, it would be folly to include three spinners, particularly when Adil Rashid is hot.
There's also the problem of who to drop. Tom Curran, who came in for the injured Liam Dawson, took three for 17 and will now be hard to displace. Liam Plunkett, a married man now, may regret the timing of his nuptials. Plunkett missed the first three games to get hitched but is now available.
Chris Woakes and Olly Stone were expensive and wicketless but England won't overreact to that. It comes with the territory. Likewise the form of Jonny Bairstow should not be a concern. He could do with a score, though.
The Pallekele wicket looked pretty fair to batters and bowlers in the third ODI, although with this match not under lights there is no toss bias to preoccupy the captain's minds. There have been only two day matches played at the venue and both were won by the side batting first. It's too small a sample size to read anything into. Besides, we expect both skips to choose to chase if given the opportunity. That's where England's strength lies. And Sri Lanka probably feel their bowling is more vulnerable under pressure.
The most significant factor is, once again, the weather. This should be another overs-reduced match. The forecast is pretty grim with thunderstorms expected. That should assist the chaser in the event of a reduced target.
England no value
England are no better than [1.33] for a 3-0 lead with Sri Lanka [3.95]. As we explained in detail here, it could be time to take on England at such prohibitive prices.
The rationale is pretty simple. Those odds are based on a 50-over contest. A contest which no team in the world are more adept at the moment than England. A 20-over contest is far more likely. And England are not the best in the world at that.
In an ideal world we would have Sri Lanka chase because a wet ball, a slippery outfield and England's historic vulnerability defending are all great levellers. We recognise, too, that the [3.95] might not be available for long in such circumstances but [3.3] should be on the cards.
Shanaka a nice price
With Dickwella finding striking form - and Tharanga seemingly out of the picture - Betfair Sportsbook go 7/2 about the opener and it could be a tempting price for some. Kusal Mendis, back in the XI following an injury to Kusal Perera, is also 7/2. Yet with Sri Lankan batting so unreliable, a mention of Dasun Shanaka at 7s. He can strike a long ball and he enjoyed a late cameo in game three. He might not have to bat for long with little to beat to make that price look big.
Eoin Morgan came up trumps at 5s with a top-scorer effort last time out. At the start of the series we identified him and Joe Root as the value on the market. Morgan is 9/2 now and Root has been pushed out to 16/5 with Sportsbook. That's a slip from favourite to third fav with Jason Roy and Bairstow getting top billing at 11/4 and 3/1 respectively.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back Sri Lanka batting second at [3.3] or better (0.5pts)