By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Olly Stone and Liam Dawson seek to impress selectors in ODIs
  • England batsmen need to master spin bowling to thrive in Sri Lanka
  • Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali must take most of the wickets in ideal conditions
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – England have only won one of their last seven away Test series and they head to Sri Lanka intent on improving that record.

 

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England ODI squad to tour Sri Lanka 2018

  • Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, captain)
  • Moeen Ali (Worcestershire)
  • Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire, wk)
  • Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wk)
  • Sam Curran (Surrey)
  • Tom Curran (Surrey)
  • Liam Dawson (Hampshire)
  • Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire)
  • Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire)
  • Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)
  • Joe Root (Yorkshire)
  • Jason Roy (Surrey)
  • Ben Stokes (Durham)
  • Olly Stone (Warwickshire)
  • Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)
  • Mark Wood (Durham)

England Test squad to tour Sri Lanka 2018

  • Joe Root (Yorkshire, captain)
  • Moeen Ali (Worcestershire)
  • James Anderson (Lancashire)
  • Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)
  • Rory Burns (Surrey)
  • Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)
  • Jos Buttler (Lancashire)
  • Sam Curran (Surrey)
  • Joe Denly (Kent)
  • Keaton Jennings (Lancashire)
  • Jack Leach (Somerset)
  • Ollie Pope (Surrey)
  • Adil Rashid (Yorkshire)
  • Ben Stokes (Durham)
  • Olly Stone (Warwickshire)
  • Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)

Tour Schedule

October

  • 10 – 1st ODI, Dambulla (10:00 BST)
  • 13 – 2nd ODI, Dambulla (05:30 BST)
  • 17 – 3rd ODI, Pallekele (10:00 BST)
  • 20 – 4th ODI, Pallekele (05:30 BST)
  • 23 – 5th ODI, Colombo (RPS) (10:00 BST)
  • 27 – Twenty20 International, Colombo (RPS) (14:30 BST)

November

  • 6-10 – 1st Test, Galle (04:30 GMT)
  • 14-18 – 2nd Test, Pallekele (04:30 GMT)
  • 23-27 – 3rd Test, Colombo (SSC) (04:30 GMT)

 

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New faces can stake claim for World Cup places in ODI series

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It is unlikely that England will learn much from their five one-day internationals (ODIs) in Sri Lanka. They are the best ODI team in the world, they are deservedly favourites to win the 2019 World Cup on home soil and they would be ready to start the tournament tomorrow if necessary.

Despite this, Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss will be keen for the squad to stay focused and make sure they maintain momentum ahead of the showpiece event next summer. If you discount their loss in the one-off match against Scotland this year, England have won their last eight ODI series.

That is a mightily impressive record and, provided the batsmen deal with Sri Lanka’s spinners effectively, there is no reason why it should not continue. As always in Asia, if the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler find form early, big scores will be there for the taking.

While the core eight or nine players in the side are more or less assured of their places for the World Cup, several players have a great chance to show the selectors that they should be in the team next year.

Tom Curran started his ODI career impressively in Australia and could cement his spot if he performs well; his brother Sam Curran starred in the Test series against India and could now make a strong case for inclusion ahead of injured fellow left-armer David Willey; Olly Stone might demonstrate the value of extra pace in international cricket; and Liam Dawson may thrive as a spinning all-rounder in helpful conditions.

 

Batsmen must find a good method against spin

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The last time England toured the sub-continent, they lost five of the seven Tests they played in India and Bangladesh. Furthermore, at least four of those losses featured below-par batting displays, so it is very important that the seven batsmen chosen perform better than that in Sri Lanka.

While this means it is not a good time to blood a new opening batsman, their hand has been forced by Alastair Cook’s well-earned retirement and the failures of all the candidates they have tried so far. So the task falls to Rory Burns to fill the void left by Cook and provide England with some stability at the top of the order. If he succeeds, he will rapidly become a favourite of fans and selectors alike.

If Burns starts with a clean slate, the opposite is true for Keaton Jennings. He is not just in the last chance saloon; he is dangling off the balcony and clinging on to his place for dear life. He is still in the side for two key reasons: the selectors’ reluctance to bring in two new openers and the composed century he scored on his debut in Mumbai. Now it is up to Jennings to repay the selectors’ faith.

Given the uncertainty at the top of the order, England’s middle order must thrive if the team is to be successful in Sri Lanka. Moeen Ali, who will likely retain his place at No.3, is a good player of spin so he could be important. Root is an excellent player of spin so he will need to set a captain’s example. Ben Stokes showed his fighting qualities this summer, as he did last time he was in the sub-continent, so he needs to continue in that vein.

Bairstow had a good series in India so England will hope he can produce something similar in Sri Lanka. Buttler also played quite well in the three Tests he was selected for in India so perhaps he can be even more effective this time. It is undoubtedly a strong middle order, possibly the best in world cricket, and it is backed up by lower-order talents like Sam Curran, so there are plenty of reasons for the tourists to be hopeful.

And if anyone starts to struggle, England could turn to Ollie Pope, who looks to be an excellent player of spin, or Joe Denly, who the selectors believe has the right skillset and mentality for Test cricket. Denly could also replace Jennings as opener if the Lancashire man continues to under-perform.

 

Rashid and Moeen must take plenty of wickets

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In England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the tourists can rely on their pace bowlers especially James Anderson and Stuart Broad, to take most of their wickets. But in Sri Lanka, in conditions which are only really helpful for spin bowlers, that burden will fall to Rashid and Moeen.

Head Selector Ed Smith put his faith in Rashid by recalling him during the summer, and this is the time when he can truly repay him. If the leg-spinner takes stacks of wickets in the series, Smith will be hailed as a genius. If he does not, people will want to know why Rashid was brought back into the fold.

Anyone who has watched the Yorkshire spinner knows he can bowl wicket-taking deliveries, but there has always been a question about whether he can stop batsmen from scoring freely against him. If he can do that in Sri Lanka, while continuing to bowl dangerous deliveries, he will take more wickets than on previous trips to the subcontinent. It will be fascinating to see how Rashid does.

Hopes will also be high for Moeen after his spectacular nine-wicket return to the team at the Ageas Bowl this summer. If he can find a good rhythm early on in Sri Lanka, he could have an excellent series. But if he struggles to begin with, he has a tendency to doubt himself and may not take as many wickets as England need him to.

If the latter situation happens, Head Coach Bayliss and Captain Root will have to bring Leach into the team to help out. Spin bowling is too important in Sri Lanka for one of your two spinners to under-perform. It might actually help Rashid and Moeen to play the ODI series first, as it will enable them to get used to the conditions and find the right method to achieve maximum effectiveness.

England & Sri Lanka will start with two warm-up one-day tour matches on 5 & 6 October.

 

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