Over the years, in away conditions, Sri Lanka have traditionally struggled against teams like Australia, New Zealand, and even England. However, in recent times, their record has only been improving with every away tour. Although they lost to New Zealand in New Zealand in the series played just prior to the World Cup, they did come up with a couple of impressive performances, which will encourage them as they take on the English at Wellington. As for the latter, they will seek confidence from the drubbing handed out to Scotland, but would be desperate for a win against a Test-playing nation.
Speaking of Sri Lanka first, their performance has been a mixed bag so far. They were crushed by New Zealand in their opening encounter, and pretty badly at that. This was followed by an unimpressive win against Afghanistan. Against Bangladesh however they got their act together with a healthy batting performance, and a pretty impressive bowling effort as well. Fielding is one area they still need to improve though. They did drop quite a few chances in the last match, which is rather uncharacteristic of them, known to be a good fielding side.
Among individual performances, Sri Lanka would be pleased with the form of their key batsmen. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara got centuries in the last match, and Mahela Jayawardene got one in the victory over Afghanistan. Although Lahiru Thirimanne is yet to get a big score, he has given good support to Dilshan at the top of the order. Their middle order remains a concern, and with Jeevan Mendis ruled out of the World Cup, Lanka might look to bring in the experienced Upul Tharanga. In the bowling department, the form of Lasith Malinga would worry them. He hasn’t been the force he was expected to be, and has been uncharacteristically expensive. Thankfully, the likes of Rangana Herath and Suranga Lakmal have stood up well.
England would be extremely pleased to have gotten a win under their belt. Even if it was Scotland, a victory is a victory at the end of the day. Moeen Ali got a wonderful hundred in that game, and picked up wickets as well. However, he needs to stand up and deliver against bigger sides, especially with the bat. Ian Bell also got into the act against Scotland, and would be looking to carry on his form into the game against Lanka. Skipper Eoin Morgan got some runs as well, but the form of Gary Ballance remains a worry.
As in the previous editions, James Anderson hasn’t lived up to the expectations this year as well in the World Cup. It is important he gets among the wickets, and turns things around. Stuart Broad has been strictly okay, and although Steven Finn got some wickets against the Scots, he will be attacked by the Lankans for sure, for they have seen him struggle under pressure. England’s bowling really needs to pull up their socks. All said and done, Lanka seem to hold a slight edge over the struggling English.
--By A Cricket Analyst