Moeen Ali heads three men key to England’s fortunes in Sri Lanka

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If this one-day international series is meant to serve as England’s World Cup warm-up, then the distinct lack of cricket they have played so far on the tour is rather worrying.

Warming up for the warm-ups, Alastair Cook’s men have managed one practise match against Sri Lanka A so far, but have been victims of the country’s wet season since and are likely to have at least one of their seven-games in the series disrupted by the weather.

Taking that short, 43-over contest against the Sri Lankan reserves as a miniscule sample size, we’ve picked out three men who will be pivotal in England’s chances of claiming a first series win since February:

Moeen Ali

It’s becoming abundantly clear, in both red-ball and white-ball cricket, that Ali is going to be England’s ace for the foreseeable future.

Following up a summer of cricket in which he excelled, Ali took three for 29 in the Sri Lanka A innings before moving up to open with Cook and blaze a 21-ball half century in which his first six deliveries went for four.

Ali is 4/1 to be England’s leading scorer in Sri Lanka and 9/2 to top their bowling charts.

Steven Finn

While Ali was taking half of the first innings wickets to fall all by himself, he was ably supported by the beanpole fast bowler who is leaving the horrors of last winter further behind him with each delivery.

Finn took 2-43 opening the bowling in Colombo and could well be a force come the World Cup in Australian conditions that should suit.

First he must compile a series of reliable wicket-taking in Sri Lanka and the 10/3 favouritism he holds to lead the tourists in that department indicates the achievement is well within his reach.

Jos Buttler

Although Buttler still feels like a relatively new arrival still, only five men in the squad have played more ODIs than the inventive wicketkeeper-batsman.

His bludgeoning in the middle order is key to England’s strategy – their water-treading starts are designed to give him and Eoin Morgan the platform from which to explode – and his 16/1 price to be the side’s leading scorer in Sri Lanka should be taken quickly.

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.