Cook must score runs in Sri Lanka to banish Pietersen chatter

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It may seem difficult to see, through all the smoke and flames caused by Kevin Pietersen’s sniping autobiography, but approaching from the horizon is an English cricket tour to Sri Lanka.

In a little over three weeks, preparations for the forthcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year will begin with a seven-match ODI series against the men rated fourth in the world in that format.

The squad of 16 that Alastair Cook will lead should be largely unaffected by Pietersen’s 300-odd page axe grind, with only the skipper himself and Jimmy Anderson mentioned by the South African-born batsman from the touring party.

Neither copped anywhere near as much flack when compared to the likes of Andy Flower, Matt Prior and the ECB, although inevitable questions will be asked of the team’s mindset after such poisonous revelations.

On the whole, the squad should be a serene one with a few exciting young players to build around. Nonetheless, recent sorry form and the away-team tag makes them outsiders to win the series at 7/4.

But if Moeen Ali, Joe Root and Jos Buttler can continue to build on recent strong showings, Cook can start to focus on building a side capable of getting out of Group A come February.

The captain himself must weigh in with a stack of runs if he’s to ease the pressure on his leadership tenure.

When England reached number one in the world in the 50-over format, Jonathan Trott was the side’s anchor. Cook must make himself the Warwickshire man’s replacement from the top of the order to allow the flair players lower down to flourish.

If he doesn’t, the baying hounds will be out in force again and the clamour for his resignation will be as loud, if not louder, than the noise that currently surrounds Pietersen’s book.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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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.