Premadasa set for Sanga-Mahela farewell


This series was always framed within the wider narrative of an impending World Cup, with player form and planning of more immediate significance than the series result. Sri Lanka have wrapped things up with a game to spare, meaning that they can revel in the last home ODI appearances of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara in front of what is expected to be a bumper crowd at the Premadasa.

The teams have returned to Colombo, where it all kicked off three weeks ago. The memory of Moeen Ali’s maiden hundred in the first match will provide kindling for England’s fire over the winter, as will the contributions of Joe Root, James Taylor and Chris Woakes. For some, the World Cup torch is flickering only faintly. Alastair Cook has both the 100% backing of the selectors and no guarantee of leading the side at the tournament. His search for a notable score goes on.

Losing 4-3 in Sri Lanka would actually be quite a respectable result but for that to happen England have to break their Colombo duck. They have lost all three matches at the Premadasa so far and, from the look of the dry and dusty pitch, will again be out of their comfort zone.

Both teams could experiment, with little on the line beyond pride and Cook’s personal quest. Sri Lanka have resisted the urge to uncork their latest genie, the chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, but a dead rubber against England on a turning pitch will test that resolve. Peter Moores has suggested England will “give opportunities” to those in the squad, with this match representing a final chance to stake a claim ahead of World Cup selection.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)

Sri Lanka WLWLW

England LWLWL

In the spotlight

The long goodbye continues for Sri Lanka’s awesome twosome. This time it is all about Mahela Jayawardene, after Sangakkara got his farewell hundred in Pallekele. Colombo will rejoice one last time in the presence of the old showstopper and Jayawardene will have extra incentive to follow Sangakkara’s lead after the minor disappointment of his Test average dropping below fifty when he signed off in August. It could also be another chance to audition for that World Cup opener slot.

Those who would see Cook removed as captain would almost certainly promote Eoin Morgan in his place. The problem is, Morgan has not been his old self, either. Since the Australia tour, he averages 17.12 with one half-century and he has actually made fewer runs than Cook in Sri Lanka. His boosters would point to that one fifty coming while leading the side, due to Cook’s suspension, but he needs to produce from the ranks as well.

Team news

Sri Lanka may want to look at Dimuth Karunaratne, having called him up as a potential solution to the opener conundrum. However, Dinesh Chandimal made a case for staying in the side in Pallekele, so that may mean Jayawardene continues as opener with Chandimal further down. Jeevan Mendis is most likely to make way for Sandakan.

Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne/Dinesh Chandimal, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt), 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Seekkuge Prasanna, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Suranga Lakmal 11 Lakshan Sandakan

It is possible England will throw in all four of the players who have sat out the last two games, although they are unlikely to learn much more about Ian Bell after 150 ODIs. Moeen, Root and Woakes are the players most deserving of a rest.

England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Alex Hales, 3 James Taylor, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Ben Stokes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Harry Gurney

Pitch and conditions

Apart from the opening match, the pitches in Colombo have been slow and spin-friendly, as you would expect. The new surface being used for this final game again looks to be dry and straw-coloured. Thunderstorms are forecast, although there is nothing unusual about that – but this match does not have a reserve day scheduled.

Stats and trivia

Kumar Sangakkara needs 61 runs to break Ricky Ponting’s record for the most runs in a calendar year across all formats

Moeen Ali is the fourth-leading run-scorer in the series and has also bowled the most overs on either side

Eoin Morgan is 23 runs short of 3000 in ODIs for England


“At the nets he looks a decent bowler. It all depends on whether he is good enough for this level. Bringing him in right now, it’s all about us making sure if we’re confident enough to take him to the World Cup.”

Mahela Jayawardene on a potential debut for Lakshan Sandakan

“I think I’ve steadily improved. I’ve been working quite hard in the nets on my accuracy and consistency and also to keep my pace up. I’m pretty happy with my performances so far.”

Chris Jordan is hoping to continue on that trajectory to the World Cup