DAMBULLA: England are ‘very happy’ being favourites for the One-day International series in Sri Lanka but are aware that past tours have been ‘tricky’, Jos Buttler said on Tuesday on the eve of the first match in Dambulla.
Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal warned meanwhile that conditions were ‘very different’ to England, with some ‘mystery spinners’ who could pose problems for Eoin Morgan’s batsmen.
“Very happy being favourites. It shows we’ve been doing good stuff and I like being favourites,” Buttler told reporters, saying the team was ‘very confident’ and aiming to be ‘pushing the boundaries’.
The wicket-keeper/batsman added however: “We’re very aware of Sri Lanka’s qualities in these conditions. They have some experienced players... It’s been tricky in the past for England sides to come here.”
He added that being the number-one ranked one-day side ahead of next year’s World Cup on home soil brought its own pressures.
“There is always pressure being number one. Once you get there, I think that’s when the hard work really starts. You’ve got a bit of a target on your back.
“It is down to you to keep improving and try to stay there. That’s the challenge and it has its own pressures. I think in the dressing room we have a good understanding... and know that we need to keep improving and pushing the boundaries.”
Buttler said the World Cup was in the back of everyone’s mind, but they were taking every series one at a time and hoped to build a core group of players for next year’s championship.
“It’s about trending in the right way and being able to build a core group of players — a squad of 15, 16, 17 guys — who we can call upon hopefully for the World Cup,” he said.
Underdogs Sri Lanka are still reeling from the axing of captain Angelo Mathews after a dismal run of 30 losses in their last 40 ODIs including defeats to Bangladesh and Afghanistan in last month’s Asia Cup.
Chandimal, who missed the Asia Cup and the preceding ODI series against South Africa due to injury and suspension, cautioned that home pitches had ‘a lot of spin’.
“Especially for the batters it’s not easy to play... We have some mystery spinners as well. They got all the experience and talent and we have to compete with them. When the situation comes we have some game plans which we will have to execute.”
Chandimal said he hoped to improve the team’s fielding.
“In the last few days, we worked really hard on our fielding individually and as a group,” he said.
“That’s the biggest change we are trying to make in this series — give priority to our fielding and give it a lot of attention.”
But Sri Lanka are expected to prove much tougher opposition when the three-Test series begins next month, England’s first for 12 years without their retired opening rock Alastair Cook.
England are favourites in the one-dayers series despite a historically poor record on the island after defeating India 2-1 in July to record their eighth consecutive bilateral ODI series win with just a loss in a one-off match against Scotland tarnishing their record over the past 18 months.
Against Australia at Trent Bridge in June, they notched up a 50-over world record score of 481 as Alex Hales blasted 147 and Jonny Bairstow 139.
The hosts are still reeling from the axing of captain Angelo Mathews after a dismal run of 30 losses in their last 40 ODIs including defeats to Bangladesh and Afghanistan in last month’s Asia Cup.
Chandimal missed the Asia Cup and the preceding ODI series against South Africa due to injury and suspension but struck 77 in a practice match against England in Colombo on Friday.
The three Tests, starting in Galle on Nov 6, will likely be a severe Test for an England side captained by Joe Root who have been all-conquering at home but fragile abroad in the past few years.
The ODIs will be played in Dambulla, Pallekele and Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium and the Tests at Galle, Pallekele and Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club.
Monsoon rains appear may affect the series — England’s final warm-up match on Saturday in Colombo was washed out.
SRI LANKA: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Upul Tharanga, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Thisara Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Dushmantha Chameera, Lasith Malinga, Amila Aponso, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha.
ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Umpires: Ruchira Palliyaguruge (Sri Lanka) and Aleem Dar (Pakistan).
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (Australia).
Match referee: Richie Richardson (West Indies).
Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2018