Headingley (Leeds): Having lost both its encounters, Sri Lanka will be battling for survival in the NatWest triangular One-day series when it faces England in a crucial game on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka, ranked higher than both England and India in the One-day format, could face an early exit should it end up losers yet again on Tuesday. In what has turned out to be a disastrous summer for them, Sanath Jayasuriya's boys lost the Test series to England 0-2 and then suffered defeats in their first two games in the triangular One-day series.
Another defeat would render their chances of making it to the final on July 13 very bleak. Sri Lanka's batting, its biggest strength, appears low in depth and is suffering from loss of form of key players. The opening pair of Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana is not what it used to be a few seasons ago and Kumar Sangakkara, an ebullient middle order batsman, is so out of touch and was rested in the game against India at The Oval on Sunday. To make matters worse, Marvan Atapattu still does not seem to have recovered fully from a finger injury in the Test series, which threatened his chances of staying back for the One-dayers.
The Sri Lankan bowling, without Muthiah Muralitharan, is struggling to contain the powerful line-ups of England and India, who registered a 44-run and four-wicket victories respectively. England is also not without its own worries with key batsmen appearing ill at ease while negotiating the middle overs. Invariably, England has got good starts from Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight, but the middle order has lost track and the team has not been able to capitalise in the slog overs.
Nasser Hussain is an impressive captain but his One-day average of only 30-plus without a hundred to date, as well as the strike rate of only 65 does not quite make him an ideal One-day batsman. England's premier strike bowler Darren Gough is still to get a green signal on his fitness from team management though he continues to travel with the squad with his troublesome knee closely strapped. Gough is the leading England wicket-taker with 168 wickets from 106 games, but has been troubled by his knee since the tour to New Zealand in February. Still England has shown some encouraging pointers in the form of all-rounders Paul Collingwood and Ronnie Irani with left-arm spinner Ashley Giles appearing as crafty as ever.
England clearly appears a better side than Lanka at the moment and it does not quite seem plausible that the latter would be able to turn the tables on the home team. Sri Lankan coach Dave Whatmore conceded the Headingley game was a make or break moment for him in the NatWest Trophy. "It will be the midway stage of the competition. For us it is absolutely vital that we are able to give a good account of ourselves in the match," Whatmore said.