Sri Lanka are hanging in around the middle of the table as of now, but won’t be there for long unless they rack up some wins, starting with the match against England on Friday.
This is the ultimate David v Goliath face-off at this ICC World Cup. England are the world’s top-ranked ODI side. They are the strongest contenders to lift the trophy and have already taken firm steps towards making the final four.
Sri Lanka are a struggling one-day side. They have a lone win from five matches. But two of those produced no result, giving them a point from each, as a result of which they are still hanging in there, around the mid-table.
England will again be without Jason Roy for this clash as he continues to recover from the hamstring tear he suffered against West Indies. But England have such depth in resources, and have so much going right for them that they can look past the Roy injury and still come out and dominate. Doing so could give them yet another win, and a win should take them one step closer to the semifinals.
As for Sri Lanka, they face an uphill battle, but have enough games left to try and make something out of this campaign. Dimuth Karunaratne, their captain, has excelled with the bat so far, but can he inspire the rest of the team with those performances? Whatever may be needed to make that happen, though, needs to come soon.
Leeds should wake up to a sunny day with some clouds hanging overhead, but chances of rain are extremely minimal. There should also be a moderate breeze. This will be Headingley’s CWC19 debut, but in the fifth and final ODI of the England-Pakistan series that preceded this tournament, the ground had a 350-plus total that England defended successfully to win by 54 runs.
WE HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, SAYS KARUNARATNE
Dimuth Karunaratne has labelled England the best players of spin at this World Cup and admits Sri Lanka will have to think outside the box if they are to halt the hosts’ charge.
England took Rashid Khan and Afghanistan apart earlier this week at Old Trafford, Eoin Morgan the tormentor in chief as Khan was dispatched for 110 runs from only nine overs.
England crashed 25 maximums off the Afghans’ spin-heavy attack and are now at Headingley preparing for Friday’s clash against Sri Lanka.
“England is the best batting line-up against the spinners in the world,” admitted the Sri Lankan skipper. “If you take the Asian countries, I think England are playing even better than them. We must think about it, check the ground and what combinations will we use against England.
“Will we go with two spinners, or an extra batsman and fast bowler? That is what we are discussing at the moment.
“We know that we need to restrict them to less than 300, we have a couple of plans against the batsmen and we will try to use them in the middle.
“Everyone in their batting line-up is dangerous, they are explosive and can change the game.
“We are taking every one of them seriously. And have a plan for each and everyone and hopefully it will work in this game.
“We will have to think out of the box and that is what we have been doing over the last few weeks.
“We had a home series against them before with them, so we have a couple of ideas and we need to work them out in the middle.”
Sri Lanka lost that home ODI series against England before Christmas, but won the final clash in Colombo which will give them hope on Friday.
With the bat, the top order has fired as Karunaratne and Kusal Perera have combined for four half centuries already this World Cup.
England’s Joe Root has scored 971 runs – the highest by any player on either sides’ current World Cup squad -- in the 24 matches he played against Sri Lanka.
Jason Roy’s 162, which came back in 2016 at the Oval in London against Sri Lanka, remains the highest individual score by any batsmen of the two sides.
Lasith Malinga has scalped 44 wickets -- the most by any player among the two sides -- in the 29 matches he played against England.
Chris Woakes has scalped 23 wickets in the 17 matches he played against Sri Lanka. This is the highest by any current English bowler. Woakes’ six for 47, which came back in 2014 in Kandy, is also the best bowling figures by any current player in the two teams.
For Sri Lanka, it is the allrounder Angelo Mathews who has scored the most runs against England. The 32-year old has amassed 782 runs in the 26 matches he played against England.