ODI series preview: England v Sri Lanka

Despite a somewhat turbulent build up to the tour to the UK, where they had to quickly replace their coach, Sri Lanka will be confident of coming out on top in the five-match ODI series, starting at The Oval on Thursday.

Despite a somewhat turbulent build up to the tour to the UK, where they had to quickly replace their coach, Sri Lanka will be confident of coming out on top in the five-match ODI series, starting at The Oval on Thursday.

The visitors have played nine one-dayers this year, losing none, and winning the Asia Cup in the process. Their tour to Blighty has also been a good one so far, aside from a loss to Essex.

With the return of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, having retired from T20s, the 'gaping hole' England had been hoping to exploit, and failed, has been closed up again. Add Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews and Tillakaratne Dilshan to the mix and <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy' Power's odds of a series win for the Sri Lankans</b></a> are largely vindicated.

Sri Lanka's batting line up is impressive for sure, but they also have a formidable bowling unit that can afford to leave one of the most effective spinners in Ajantha Mendis on the bench, and still win. He will be back in this series though, one imagines.

This leaves England, with Alastair Cook back as skipper, needing to settle quickly, especially at the top of the order. The squad is not particularly fresh-faced, with only Michael Carberry's inclusion a slight surprise, but not really.

The selectors are probably wishing they'd called up Alex Hales though, after his lone resistance in the T20 and Carberry's failure. Cook will need an opening partner he can trust, and it's likely to be Ian Bell.

England have an excellent middle order when they get going, from Eoin Morgan, to Jos Buttler, to Joe Root, but none impressed at the Oval in the T20, where the first ODI will also be played, and looked clueless against Lasith Malinga.

All that being said, these are actually rather good batsmen, on home soil, so five games is enough time for them to find their feet, even if they falter in the first game or two. They just need the rain to play along.

As for the bowling, Peter Moores is sure to give fast bowler Harry Gurney another go after his wicketless debut in Aberdeen earlier this month. He was their best bowler in the T20 though, taking two wickets and the most economical to boot.

Without Stuart Broad, his knee injury still proving a bother, it will be up to James Anderson to spearhead the attack and provide a cool head for the youngsters, and make sure that James Tredwell has a base to bowl at even if he gives away runs.

It remains to be seen if England will go with Tim Bresnan for the bulk of the series, or stick with Chris Woakes as an all rounder. Chris Jordan and Ravi Bopara are unlikely to lose their places, though Bresilad has been very good for Yorkshire with the bat recently.

As it stands, England are fourth on the ICC rankings in the format, and Sri Lanka are third. If either side records a whitewash, they will move to number one.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For the hosts, all eyes will be on skipper Alastair Cook, both with the bat and in terms of his tactics. He has been excellent for Essex this season, and a solid opening platform, as we're always told, is key. <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/one-day-internationals' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power's Cook's odds as the series top run-scorer</b></a> agree.

Sri Lanka's premier paceman Lasith Malinga has continued with the form he's had all year, carrying his Asia Cup and World T20 prowess to the IPL, and now to England. The Blighty boys did not enjoy him in the T20, and that is unlikely to change.

<b>Last five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: Sri Lanka won by seven wickets at The Oval<br>2011, fifth ODI: England won by 16 runs in Manchester<br>2011, fourth ODI: England won by 10 wickets in Nottingham<br>2011, third ODI: Sri Lanka won by six wickets at Lord's<br>2011, second ODI: Sri Lanka won by 69 runs in Leeds.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Sri Lanka:</i> Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis, Chathuranga De Silva, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad.

<i>England:</i> Alastair Cook (capt), James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Jos Buttler, Michael Carberry, Harry Gurney, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes

<b>Fixture</b><br>First ODI: 22 May, The Oval<br>Seocnd ODI: 25 May, Chester-le-Street<br>Third ODI: 28 May, Manchester<br>Fourth ODI: 31 May, Lord's<br>Fifth ODI: 3 June, Birmingham