It’s been a disappointing series so far for Sri Lanka, and on Saturday, 20 October, they’ll have their final chance to save it against an England side constantly living up to their No.1 status.
Since the first one-day international, which was washed out in Dambulla after just 15 overs, Sri Lanka have been outplayed in whatever play has been possible in between the rain breaks over the next two matches.
In the second ODI, again in Dambulla, England racked up 278/9 in 50 overs before persistent rain shrunk Sri Lanka’s target to 172 from 29 overs. They fell short of it by 31 runs, after four of their top-five batsmen were dismissed for single-digit scores.
Likewise, in Kandy for the next ODI, the home side were kept to 150/9 in 21 overs, and England chased that down in 18.3 overs, with their captain Eoin Morgan scoring his second half-century of the series.
In short, it’s been all England so far in this series. Sri Lanka need to show some of the fight they displayed in their last home series, against South Africa in August, when after sliding to 3-0, they fought back to end the series 3-2 to take the gloss off the visitors’ victory.
If they can summon spirit similar to that, they might yet avoid a loss in this series. Chief to those hopes, however, will be their batting. After the third ODI, Niroshan Dickwella, the wicketkeeper-batsman, didn’t mince words about his side’s batting efforts, and his own.
“I can't be satisfied with my performance,” he said. “A lot of times I get 30 or 40, but only about one in five games do I get 70 or 80. Even though I've got starts, I haven't capitalised and turned them into big innings."
It is something the rest of the batsmen can relate to as well. Their bowling is good enough – Lasith Malinga has hit the ground running since his return – and if the batsmen can step up and provide support, this series might yet provide the home fans some cheer.
Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka): The big-hitter in the middle-order can change matches if he gets going. He did that to an extent in the second ODI, scoring a 49-ball 44* to give Sri Lanka hope in the chase, and Dickwella made it a point to mention him after the third match, when he managed just nought. Perera will need to do more, especially keeping in mind Sri Lanka’s batting woes.
Eoin Morgan (England): The captain has led from the front. Twice in as many outings, he’s come out and shored up the middle-order – something Sri Lanka’s crying out for – with scores of 92 and 58*. There was also a 91* in the List A warm-up match before the series. If he can do it one more time, chances are England will take the series.
As is expected this time of year, thunderstorms are forecast in Pallekele. The match will likely be interrupted, but Sri Lanka have excellent drainage facilities, and some play should be possible.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Upul Tharanga, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dhananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga, Amila Aponso, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Kusal Perera
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett (last two games only), Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood