Bopara positioning himself as potential World Cup talisman for England

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If the first ODI saw England show signs of improvement in their 50-over-cricket application, the second encounter was a stark reality check as Alastair Cook’s men returned to familiar foibles in a chastening loss.

Sri Lanka are now 1/33 to turn their two-game lead into series victory and England are likely back staring at the drawing board and scratching their heads when it comes to World Cup plans.

Here’s three things they must learn quickly based on the first two games:

Bopara should be a World Cup cert

Before this tour to Sri Lanka, England dropped the Essex all-rounder of 110 ODIs and provided little in the way of explanation.

Now back in the fold for similarly secretive reasons, Bopara is going a long way to stamping his passport for the World Cup with his performances.

His 65 with the bat in the close-but-no-cigar loss in the first ODI was followed up by another half century in the second and in both matches he has been criminally under-bowled despite being economical.

Batsmen must form a game plan against spin

During the humiliation of the second ODI defeat, Sri Lanka bowled spin at England for all but 13 of their allotted overs. Those bowlers returned figures of six for 127. India enjoyed similar success on these shores in the summer.

What that shows is, no matter the conditions, England’s frailty against spin is palpable and it is the biggest obstacle in their World Cup-winning path.

Who will be England’s fourth seamer?

Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan, Chris Woakes, Bopara, Harry Gurney. These five players all have a chance of sealing a spot behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn in the seam attack come February’s big tournament.

The only problem is England don’t know who they want to give that chance too and are rotating them in and out of the side too often for a consistent audition.

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.