Back-to-back Cardiff matches a stern test of leadership and a gauge of where SL are as a T20 side
Since the start of 2019, England have won 16 T20 internationals to the eight they have lost. In the same period, Sri Lanka have lost 14, winning just five. England are the top-ranked T20 side, while Sri Lanka are eighth. And while England had been runners-up at the most-recent T20 world event, Sri Lanka are required to qualify for the main draw of the next major tournament. There would, in short, seem to be a gulf betweeen these teams.
Although he has not been consistently impressive himself in the past few years, he has a daunting assignment ahead of him now. The back-to-back matches at Cardiff will not only be a stern test of his leadership, but an indication of where Sri Lanka are as a T20 side. A full-strength Sri Lanka side has not played since before the pandemic.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLLL
In the spotlight
Kusal Perera, meanwhile, has a spectacularly poor T20 record against England, striking at 84 and averaging less than 10. He has also not played the format in over a year – his last T20 international having been in March 2020. Although there are several players vying for positions at the top of the order, Perera has said he will either open the batting, or come in at No. 3. This is a captaincy that is yet to really earn its stripes. Runs in this series will immeasurably assist his leadership.
Pitch and conditions
Cardiff is the second lowest-scoring ground in the T20 Blast this season, with an average of 7.59 runs an over, and is one of the few English grounds where spinners are more expensive than seamers in T20. The weather is expected to be good, though the temperatures are forecast to dip to the mid teens.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (wk), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Sam Curran, 8 David Willey/Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood
Avishka Fernando’s return (he had been left out of the two previous series due to poor fitness) will strengthen the top three. There is some competition for middle order spots, however, with Dhananjaya de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, and Oshada Fernando all vying for places.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Kusal Perera (capt.)(wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Oshada Fernando, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Isuru Udana, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Stats and trivia
“I think Moeen was unlucky not to play in India. The pitches that we played on didn’t turn at all in that series so actually a second spinner wasn’t the best option. We have to look at the balance of the side but you have to be a very, very good side to go in with only five bowlers and no allrounder.”
England captain Eoin Morgan suggests Moeen will take Stoke’s place in the XI
“It’s important to give our top-order batters consistent places in the team, so they know how to score runs in those positions.”
Sri Lanka captain Kusal Perera suggests his team’s top order could do with some faith through the series.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf