England will look to settle scores against Sri Lanka after their bad-tempered clash earlier this year when the two sides meet in a pre-World Cup one-day series from tomorrow.
The seven-match tour has been spiced up by comments from England captain Alastair Cook that his team will try to exact revenge for the Test and one-day defeats at home.
Cook’s status as captain came under heavy pressure after the 1-0 Test defeat, and tempers frayed in the ODIs when off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake controversially ran out Jos Buttler before delivering a ball.
“There is a World Cup at the end of it, but we are here to try and win this series,” Cook said on arrival. “I think we owe you (Sri Lanka) a little bit of revenge.”
The ‘Mankaded’ dismissal by Senanayake, since suspended for an illegal bowling action, is considered to be against cricket’s spirit of fair play.
But Sri Lanka insisted Buttler was earlier warned for backing up, and senior pro Mahela Jayawardene lashed out at Cook for questioning Senanayake’s run-out.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka are smarting from this month’s 5-0 thrashing in India in a series that was hastily arranged after the West Indies abandoned their Indian tour over a pay dispute.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews insisted the matches will be used to recover from the morale-sapping loss and find the right combination for the World Cup starting in February.
“We need to get back into our groove,” Mathews said. “We want to look at players whom we think need to be looked at and whom we think will go on the World Cup.
“It’s very important that we sort out our bowlers and also the batting order. By the end of the series we should have a very clear idea of whom we want to take to the World Cup.”
Both teams are grouped together in the preliminary stage of the World Cup and will feature on the opening day on February 14, with Sri Lanka playing New Zealand and England facing Australia.
The upcoming series, which opens in Colombo, provides both teams a chance to strike form — provided the weather does not play spoilsport.
The prevailing north-east monsoon over the island has already forced one of the two warm-up matches to be abandoned, leaving the tourists short of match practice.
With more rain forecast during the series, Sri Lankan officials have set aside reserve days for five of the seven matches.
“It’s not ideal, is it?” England batsman Ian Bell said. “But I suppose, on this tour, we’re going to get interrupted by rain all the way through.”
England have lost 11 of 18 one-dayers this year, including a 4-1 drubbing in Australia which co-hosts the World Cup with New Zealand in February-March.
England (from): Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
Sri Lanka (from): Angelo Mathews (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Lahiru Thirimanne, Jeevan Mendis, Thilina Kandamby, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Shaminda Eranga, Dhammika Prasad, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Gamage.
Nov 26: First ODI, Colombo (day-night)
Nov 29: Second ODI, Colombo
Dec 3: Third ODI, Hambantota (day-night)
Dec 7: Fourth ODI, Colombo
Dec 10: Fifth ODI, Pallekelle (day-night)
Dec 13: Sixth ODI, Pallekelle
Dec 16: Seventh ODI, Colombo (day-night).