For the first time in what seems like an eternity, England are about to go into an international tour without opening batsman Alastair Cook, the leading all-time runs scorer who retired at the end of summer home series against India, signing off in magnificent fashion with a century in his final innings.
However, finding a pair who can successfully open the batting in Sri Lanka is just one of the many conundrums facing the England hierarchy. In total, Cook had twelve opening partners for England (aside from Andrews Strauss, alongside whom he began his career), none of whom have been particularly successful, so finding two new openers could be something of a challenge. At this stage it looks like being the Surrey debutant Rory Burns and the much-tried but rarely successful Keaton Jennings at the top of the order, but playing in Sri Lanka does strange things to England batsmen, so who knows who could be opening the innings by series end.
You have to go back to 2000-01 (even before Alastair Cook’s time) for the last time England won a Test series in Sri Lanka, eventually coming out on top 2-1 after being thumped by an innings in Galle in the First Test, but snatching relatively tight wins in the remaining two matches.
Sri Lanka won 1-0 in 2003-04, and by the same margin in 2007-08, before a 1-1 draw in 2011-12, the last time the two sides met in Sri Lanka.
In matches played in England, the home side won the last series 2-0 in 2016, although Sri Lanka have performed creditably well, with series victories in 2014 (1-0) and a 1-1 draw in 2006.
In limited overs cricket, it has generally been a fairly even contest between the two sides in recent years, with the home advantage perhaps not as pronounced in ODIs as it is in the longer form of the game.
Sri Lanka last beat England in a one day series in 2014-15, when they came out on top in a 7-match series 5-2 at home. England was victorious the last time they met in the shorter form of the game, taking out the 2016 home series 3-0.
With regard to the respective sides’ recent form, Sri Lanka won their last Test series, played earlier in 2018 at home against South Africa 2-0. This followed on from a drawn series against West Indies away (1-1), a 1-0 win over Bangladesh at home in 2017-18, and a 0-1 loss to India away earlier in the same season. In terms of one-day form, it comes into this series on the back of very disappointing Asia Cup, which included losses to Bangladesh by 137 runs and to Afghanistan by 91 runs.
England also won its last Test series, beating India 4-1 at home in 2018 after drawing 1-1 with Pakistan earlier in the summer. This followed a 0-1 loss away to New Zealand and a 0-4 defeat away to Australia in The Ashes in 2017-18.
However, England’s overall one-day form has been much more consistent, winning the home series against India 2-1, beating both Australia and New Zealand away 5-0 and 3-2 respectively. This does nevertheless need to be countered by the fact that England lost to Scotland for the first time ever in Edinburgh in 2018.
1st ODI, Dambulla (d/n) (09:00 GMT)
2nd ODI, Dambulla (04:30 GMT)
3rd ODI, Pallekele (d/n) (09:00 GMT)
4th ODI, Pallekele (04:30 GMT)
5th ODI, Colombo (RPS) (d/n) (09:00 GMT)
1st Test, Galle (04:30 GMT)
2nd Test, Pallekele (04:30 GMT)
3rd Test, Colombo (SSC) (04:30 GMT)
Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports to bet on live and in-play. The nature of the game means that every ball of a match can be considered as a new and separate market, and so the betting opportunities are almost limitless. Just as a few examples, you can bet on the result of the first ball each new batsman faces, how many runs a teams scores in a five over block, or how many runs get scored in the power play during a ODI. With an in-play cricket betting app, you can also punt on when you think the first wicket of an innings will fall, or which over you think the next dismissal will be in, as well as how many batsmen will be out by a particular time in the match or how many will be out bowled, caught, stumped, etc.
You also have the advantage of being able to request your own market if a bet you like hasn’t been framed by your sportsbook.
Given its relatively poor away form stretching back over a number of years, the uncertainty at the top of the batting order, and its lack of a world class spinner (so essential on the turning pitches in Sri Lanka), it will take a monumental effort from England to get anything out of this 3 match Test series. Overall, Sri Lanka’s experience in the home conditions suggests they will be too strong, and so a 2-0 win to home side looks a reasonable bet.
In the one day series, however, it’s a different proposition. England has shown itself to be a bold front runner at home and abroad, and on all types of pitches, while the Sri Lankans will be low on confidence after their very poor showing in the Asia Cup. To sum up, England’s swashbuckling style under Eoin Morgan will get the job done, with the visitors taking the series 4-1.
If you’re looking for a bit of value in this market, Rory Burns to be England’s top run scorer during the Test series is a bet worth considering. Although he has yet to make his Test debut, he comes to this series as only one of four batsmen to make 1,000 runs in domestic first-class cricket this year (captaining Surrey to the County Championship in the process), and he managed to look composed against all types of bowling on a variety of pitches. If he makes runs early and gets his confidence up, he could be the match winner for England.
The experienced campaigners Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are likely to start the favourites in this market, but there’s no certainty that either will play in all three Tests. For that reason, it might be worth having a punt on Ben Stokes as England’s top wicket taker. Some are suggesting that he is on this tour primarily as a batsman, but there are likely to be many occasions when skipper Joe Root gets frustrated when the wicket is doing nothing and so throws the Durham all-rounder the ball. Stokes has shown himself to be one of England’s best competitors of recent years, and often when the chips are down, he is at his best.
You can currently get 7/1 with SkyBet on England winning the ODI series 5-0. We have predicted a 4-1 series win, but 7/1 for the whitewash is reasonable value, especially considering the same bookmaker has Sri Lanka at 10/1 to win the series 4-1. In comparison with that price, the 7/1 on an England clean sweep looks pretty good.