The contrast in luck between England and Sri Lanka in the ODI cricket is so clear – and so unusual – that it could very well be the subject of a body-sharing comedy. Four years ago, on England's last visit to the island, the wheels fell off their World Cup campaign before it started: Alastair Cook was fired at the end of the tour and they slipped aimlessly through the subsequent tournament , the axes threw sparks, to go directly to the group stage (in which, let's not forget, they were hit by nine windows of Sri Lanka).
However, then the fun began Freaky Friday . England is now ranked as the No. 1 ODI in the world, while Sri Lanka, the original aggressors of punk-rock in the format, have sunk to the depths unimaginable since their victory in the 1996 World Cup. Of their 40 ODI more recent, they lost 30, and five different captains took over. The last change took place a few weeks ago, with Dinesh Chandimal reincorporated at the expense of Angelo Mathews, who was discarded from the team completely after the Asian Cup, amid concerns about his physical condition and running between the windows. For the Sri Lankans, it is a case of laughter, otherwise you will cry.
While England has only triumphed once before on the ODI leg of a tour of Sri Lanka, the bilateral series have become meat and drink for Eoin Morgan's machine: they have won eight in a row, leaving aside an exceptional defeat to Scotland in June. The World Cup, with cricket pressures eliminated, is a different proposition, but England is currently a rocket propulsion unit with a blocked target. Even lack of practice, thanks to the monsoon season in Sri Lanka, it is unlikely that anyone will think they are not favorites.
For Chandimal and trainer Chandika Hathurusingha, a short-term solution is probably more important than what could happen within seven months. The high-quality spin always has the potential to annoy England (see Kuldeep Yadav's turn during the first part of India's recent tour) and Lasith Malinga has moved away from the shadows, a ghost of Sri Lanka's formidable past . The weather, too, could help level the playing field if it interrupts the pace of visitors. But Mathews' absence leaves a big hole in the batting (no jokes about his size), and it remains to be seen if a struggling side can escape the heavy gravity of recent failures. How things have changed.
Sri Lanka LLWLW (last five matches completed, the most recent first)
 England WWLWW
In the spotlight
Dinesh Chandimal was introduced as captain a day earlier, but this series marks the start of his first official term. That he missed the Asian Cup debacle (due to an injury) was probably a good thing, but that he was also suspended for the visit to South Africa in August, nine months ago he played an ODI. His most recent fifty years in the format came in March 2017 and has not reached three figures in more than two years. Hathurusingha has talked about Chandimal recovering the aggression of his early career, but it will be quite a job to change his own record, as well as the shape of a badly listed team.
Abundance is different for England since her last visit, but Chris Woakes remains the focal point of the rhythm attack. His performances in 2014-15, when he took 14 wickets at 25.28, were a rare bright spot and he has become Morgan's most trusted ODI speaker, although he missed the summer of the cue ball with an injury. England has spoken in preparation for the series about the importance of managing workloads for rapids, and their ability to adapt quickly to conditions could be key. With the absence of Liam Plunkett and David Willey, the Woakes experience will be even more valuable.
The returns of Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella are likely to be the most important changes for Sri Lanka after their early exit from the Asian Cup, with Mathews and Kusal Mendis. Amila Aponso could provide a third spin option, if necessary, while Nuwan Pradeep and Kasun Rajitha are the free rhythm bowlers on the team.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Kusal Perera, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Lasith Malinga
England's main selection problem revolves around its third seamstress: Tom and Sam Curran offer different angles of attack, while the uncovered Olly Stone brings extra rhythm. The greatest experience of Tom Curran perhaps puts him at the head of the line. Jason Roy missed the most recent ODI in England with a finger injury, but is likely to open with Jonny Bairstow instead of Alex Hales.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (week), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Tom Curran, 11 Mark Wood
Field and conditions
The terrain looked lush on the eve of the game, although it is likely that the turf will be further trimmed before the game begins. The rain interrupted the Sri Lankan practice and the fact that the decks have been placed may mean that there is some initial assistance for the sealers, with the possibility that the turns also play an important role, but the field of play should be decent for the batting.
Statistics and trivia
- Sri Lanka has lost its last seven ODI completed in Dambulla. His most recent victory on the ground was against Pakistan in 2014.
- England's last defeat in a bilateral multi-party series came to India in 2016-17.
- Jonny Bairstow is 30 runs to score 1000 in the calendar year. Only five batters in England have previously achieved the feat in ODI, the most recent being Jonathan Trott in 2011.
"Moeen [Ali] and [Adil] Rashid played very well in the practice game, we have a very good challenge of both, England has more experience, but we have more mystery." 19659029] Dinesh Chandimal contrasts the spinners of England with those of his disposition
"Obviously, the World Cup is at the bottom of everyone's mind, but there are very important series along the way, it's about trends in the right way and building a central group of players: a squad of 15/16/17 boys to whom we can summon ".
The vice captain of England Jos Buttler is not looking too far
Alan Gardner is associate editor of ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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