Ed Hawkins previews game one from Dambulla on Wednesday and fears the hosts might not put up much of a fight...
"Despite needing to prove themselves against spin, England are difficult to take on. Sri Lanka’s recent form is astonishingly bad"
Sri Lanka v England
Wednesday 10 October 10:00
Live on Sky Sports
Sri Lankan slump
Sri Lanka are in a bit of a state in the ODI game. They were dreadful in the Asia Cup, losing to Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and were sent packing early. Since then they had a rather unseemly falling out with their former talisman Angelo Mathews, who has been dropped.
Dispensing with Mathews could be a masterstroke or a disaster. They have won one of their last ten series, including defeats by Zimbabwe (3-2 at home last year) and a 5-0 whitewash against Pakistan. The one success came in the tri-series involving Zimbabwe and Bangladesh but they still lost two of five matches. Dinesh Chandimal leads this time with the selectors seemingly picking names out of a hat for the job.
Mathews leaves a gaping hole with the bat. He is their second-highest runscorer in the last 12 months with 468 runs in 11 games. Consider that Upul Tharanga, the No 1, has 654 in 20 and Mathews might have been harshly treated.
With the ball, Lasith Malinga is a familiar face but he's 35 now and his powers are on the wane, only being able to manage two games in a year. Instead the threat will come from Akila Dananjaya, an offie who has good numbers behind him and Lakshan Sandakan, the left arm wrist spinner.
Rain helps England
England are in a good place having beaten in India in the summer and cemented their position as the best team in the world. But this could be a tricky test for them considering historic foibles against spin.
They won't be too perturbed, then, that rain washed out their second warm-up match. Anything which prevents the spinners getting grip and bite will be welcome. Forecast thunderstorms the day before this game in Dambulla should help the tourists more than the hosts.
In the one outing they have managed, England looked strong. They restricted a Sri Lanka Board President's XI to 287 and then, with D-L at play, strolled home. They managed 215 for two in the 36th over, which had them well ahead of the target of 173. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan both hit half-centuries and should come into their own in more sluggish conditions.
There is no Liam Plunkett but Mark Wood picked up two wickets and Ollie Stone was pretty tight as he bids to debut. Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Root will be the spin options.
Dambulla a fair track
There is no toss bias in Dambulla under lights, which should please England. They will also be cheered by the fact that South Africa and Australia, two poor teams against spin, have won at the venue with what would have normally been classed as tricky targets. The last five first-innings scores in d-n matches read: 244-216-311-324-212.
Tourists strong in the chase
Sri Lanka are [2.92] and England [1.49]. In days of yore - England were thumped 5-2 on their last visit in 2014 - we would be all over the home team like a rash. But times have changed and England are no longer one-day chumps.
Despite needing to prove themselves against spin, England are difficult to take on. Sri Lanka's recent form is astonishingly bad and the key pointer is South Africa's 3-2 series win there this year. The Saffers are probably worse at playing tweak than England.
Alas the [1.49] is not our sort of price but we'd be happy to get with England in a chase of anything up to 300. Whether they come more than [1.75] remains to be seen, however.
Chandimal stands out
There's not a huge amount of value to be had on the top Sri Lanka runscorer market. Pretty much everyone is too skinny in relation to how often they cop. The absence of Mathews, of course, confuses matters in that regard.
Tharanga is the jolly at 16/5 (Betfair Sportsbook) followed by Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Perera at 7/2. Perera is a gun player and could prove to be the best of the bunch. Chandimal, however, top scored in the warm-up and he is proving to be rather reliable these days. The 13/2 doesn't stink the place out.
We'd love to be on Root at 11/4 for top England runscorer or Morgan at 5/1 (Betfair Sportsbook). But, frankly, they are way too short in relation to how often they actually cop. Jonny Bairstow is the top runscorer in the last 12 months and it's fair that he gets equal billing with Root.
We always like to mention Jos Buttler at 6/1. A wager on him also keeps on side the possibility of an England collapse.
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