For a seven-game series, designed to help prepare England for February’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, this contest in polar opposite Sri Lankan conditions mid monsoon season isn’t proving as useless as many first thought.
Not only are Alastair Cook and Peter Moores learning plenty about some of the challengers for a spot on the 15-man World Cup squad, but it has taken until midway through the fifth ODI for a game to be pushed to a reserve day due to rain.
Although only half the match has been played, with Sri Lanka being bowled out for 239, England’s management have still been given plenty of food for thought:
Are Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad still guaranteed a World Cup place?
England’s most formidable new-ball partnership in Test-match history are absent from Sri Lanka due to injury. Both are expected to walk back into the side when preparations for the World Cup move Down Under, where England are 10/1. Or at least they were.
The Chris’s, Woakes and Jordan, along with the towering Steven Finn, are all making an increasingly noisy case for a starting spot come February.
Woakes was the latest shining light, taking 6-47 in Sri Lanka’s innings – the best English figures in an ODI in that part of the world.
Jordan continued making incremental steps to improve his reputation with a tidy spell of 2-56, while the pace and bounce Finn provides is a known English-selector fetish when in Oz.
Don’t drop James Tredwell again
A collective eyebrow was raised when the Kent man was omitted for the fourth ODI, as he has been England’s most reliable spinner in this format both during and since Graeme Swann’s involvement.
If his mastery at Pallekele proved anything – he took just one wicket but was a constant threat and bowled the innings’ only two maidens – it’s that Tredwell must now be afforded a run in the side.
England worry that the 32-year-old is too one dimensional for Australian conditions and collective 0-96 figures from three games there help their point. But, if any canny operator can fathom a workable game plan for the situation it’s Tredwell. He just needs time to form one.
Joe Root and Ravi Bopara are becoming indispensable as support bowlers
With Ben Stokes and, possibly, Harry Gurney playing themselves out of contention for Australia, Cook must now rely on others to provide rescue overs should one of his premier bowlers suffer a bad day at the office.
In Root and Bopara the skipper has two fine options that allow him to mould his attack to conditions.
On a pitch that offered turn, Cook was able to throw the ball to his Yorkshireman for five supportive overs of off spin, while Bopara has economical series figures of 1-63 from 12 overs.
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