Sri Lanka to edge tight series
Our Dave Tickner is backing Sri Lanka to win a closely-contest one-day international series against England - one which starts on Thursday.
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After a damp victory in Aberdeen and a floodlit defeat at The Oval, England's New Era begins in earnest with a five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka.
While (relatively) early-season conditions should favour the home side, this is undoubtedly a tough test against a side that routinely reaches the latter stages of global one-day tournaments.
England's brave new world features a squad of players almost all of whom were in Australia for the fall of the old regime, while Sri Lanka's squad is also full of familiar faces: Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Dilshan, Mathews, Malinga and co are all old hands at this now.
It's a slight surprise to see England go off favourites here given the well-documented travails of the winter, and their home form in this format has fallen away somewhat.
Between 2010 and 2012, England won seven straight ODI series at home, with the likes of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Australia (twice) among the scalps. It was a fine record.
But, though they did reach the final of last year's Champions Trophy, they have failed to win any of their last three bilateral ODI series on home turf, with a 2-2 draw against South Africa in 2012 followed by 2-1 defeats to both New Zealand and Australia last year.
Those series have been closely-fought, though, and it's reasonable to expect England to compete against this Sri Lankan side as well. ODI series in England have tended to be close, with the last five five-match ODI series producing that 2-2 draw with South Africa and three 3-2 victories for the hosts. The only outlier was a 3-0 victory (one NR, one tie) against a battered and bruised India side in 2011. There are caveats; England were on the crest of a wave at that time, the series was blighted by rain with several matches shortened, and while the final scoreline was one-sided the matches were closely fought.
This should be no different. Sri Lanka, like all teams from the sub-continent, face different challenges when they play outside Asia but their record stands up to scrutiny. In the last five years they've won 23 and lost 23 of 48 ODIs outside Asia.
They lost to India in the final of a Tri-Series in the West Indies last year, and their most recent bilateral results outside Asia are a 2-2 draw in Australia (2012/13), 3-2 defeats in South Africa (2011/12) and England (2011), and a 2-1 victory in Australia (2010/11).
And Sri Lanka's recent form is superb. As well as being crowned World T20 champions, they have won their last 10 completed ODIs (albeit four against Bangladesh, one against Afghanistan and one against Ireland) and gave themselves another boost with victory in Tuesday's one-off T20.
England, on the other hand, have lost six of their last 10 ODIs.
Sri Lanka look value at odds-against to win the series, but with a closely-fought series on the cards let's be greedy and take betway's 13/5 about a 3-2 win for the tourists.