Matt Harris believes the hosts have enough to all but guarantee a place in the semi-finals with a win against a below-par Sri Lankan side in Thursday's clash at the Oval...
"If England have to chase a big target, the pedestrian nature of the early overs will make home supporters particularly nervous."
England v Sri Lanka
Thursday June 13, 13:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports 1
England's preparation for this tournament wasn't exactly ideal with a series loss to New Zealand but the side improved sufficiently to secure a comfortable 48-run win against Australia on Saturday. Once again, debate was made over slow play, with Jonathan Trott firmly in the critics' sights, but the hosts showed the value of getting runs on the board as their target of 270 proved too much for a disappointing Aussie team.
Expect Cook to bat first if he wins the toss and unless there are any late injuries, England seem certain to field an unchanged side. Cook, Trott and Ian Bell would prefer to lay a platform for Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler to take the total towards 300 but if this team has to chase a big target, the pedestrian nature of the early overs will make home supporters particularly nervous.
At some stage in the near future, veterans Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene will have all retired and maybe the remaining Sri Lankan batsmen will realise that they have to take some responsibility.
Even in Sri Lanka's dismal total of 138 against New Zealand, Sangakkara shone with 68 in a combined innings that featured three ducks and only three double figure scores. There is some exceptional talent through this squad and on paper at least they bat very deep but England may only need to knock over the ageing trio to seal the win.
Sri Lanka's bowling was impressive against the Kiwis but Lasith Malinga aside, the home team should have no concerns and should certainly perform a lot better than New Zealand did against this attack.
Venue and Conditions
Two games have been played at the Kennington Oval in this tournament so far but the respective first innings totals - 170 from Pakistan and 233 from the West Indies - are not an accurate reflection of the quality of this surface. The Oval pitch may not be the road it once was but fast scoring is possible in any form of the game and the side taking first knock should look to post a minimum target of 275. The weather is set to improve for Thursday's match with dry conditions throughout the day which should keep the spectre of Duckworth Lewis away.
The toss will be vital here and if England bat first then they should record another emphatic win at odds of [1.73]. However, I'm not confident that this side can chase big totals, particularly if they get behind the run rate early on.
Sri Lanka at [2.34] rely too heavily on the big three of Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene but they remain world class talents and a big innings from just one of them could be enough to take the points.
It's tough but I'm banking on the coin landing in England's favour and a home victory.
Ian Bell is the man in form and his 91 against Australia followed an innings of 82 in the final ODI against the Kiwis. Even then he received criticism for not going further but that form makes Bell a good pick for many at around [4.0].
Elsewhere, Eoin Morgan is always a tempting choice at [6.00] or better but I'm backing Alastair Cook to find his One Day form again and give you a profit at around the [3.75] mark.
Splitting Jayawardene, Dilshan and Sangakkara is virtually impossible and that's why you'll always find the three men closely bunched at around [4.00]. Sangakkara's knock of 68 last time out makes him favourite at [4.1] while Dilshan can be considered an outsider at [4.8].
Away from these names, Kusal Perera's first ball dismissal against New Zealand denied him the chance to prove he can take some responsibility. Perera is a definite option at [5.3] but Dilshan's price of [4.8] is too good to turn down.