England must end Stokes’ misery to regain momentum in Sri Lanka series

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England must win three games in a row if they are to win their series with Sri Lanka at 12/1 odds and move on to the next act of their World Cup preparations in buoyant mood.

The last time they managed that away from home in a series against a Test-playing nation was in 2010, against the soft-touch Bangladeshis. The trio of victories against their current hosts back in 2007 was the last time such a feat was managed against a team of note.

It’s clear that Alastair Cook’s side have ways to go on this tour, but there are improvements they can make. Here are just three:

Greater discipline with the ball

Considering their defence of a measly total of 265 went to the last over, England will be left ruing the fact they offered the Sri Lankan batsman two overs worth of extra deliveries in wides.

The number of extra balls England have had to bowl on this tour has been an unimpressive trend, starting with the 16 wides they flung down in the opener before offering four, nine and 12 in the next three games.

With England’s ability to win dependant on defending comparatively low scores by the modern game’s standards, such indiscipline is a severe hindrance.

Cast Ben Stokes aside for a while

Stokes earned a spot on this trip thanks to a couple of look-at-me performances for Durham, but has regressed into the out-of-sorts form that had him back playing for his county in the first place.

If Chris Jordan hasn’t leapfrogged the 23-year-old in the all-rounder pecking order the Sussex man may well ponder what more he can produce to do so.

Stokes hasn’t taken a wicket in his three outings and has bowled so poorly that he has been afforded just eight overs in that time, leaking a costly 85 runs.

Dropping him will allow the dependable Ravi Bopara to bowl more and would also free up a space for James Tredwell’s much-needed spin.

Get their lower-middle order firing

England’s entire 50-over philosophy with the bat is based around one of the top three bedding in for a big, if not quick, score and the muscle in the lower reaches of the lineup accelerating in the latter stages.

With James Taylor, in just his third ODI, making a well-constructed 90 at number three the stage was set for England’s much maligned game plan, only for the supposed engine room to stall repeatedly.

Losing their final seven wickets for 94 runs in Colombo significantly undermined what had the potential to be a match-winning total for England and was another dose of ammunition for the argument against their strategy.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.