Manchester, July 9: Fortunes have fluctuated wildly as Sri Lanka and England have engaged in a 5-match ODI series of cat and mouse. Now after each side has dealt two blows and incurred two blows each, they go into what promises to be a hard-fought decider. Who will strike the knock out punch?
The series so far has shown that Sri Lanka favour flat pitches where the ball comes nicely onto the bat, while England has demonstrated that a bit of moisture and cloudy skies is their cup of tea. Therefore, the wicket at Old Trafford, which has lost much of its pace and bounce bodes particularly well for the visiting Lankans.
Lanka seem likely to play a spin-heavy attack going by the prodigious turn that the Lancashire County side benefited from on this strip in England's domestic Twenty20 tournament. Indeed, Suraj Randiv and Ajantha Mendis could prove to be quite destructive on this wicket.
Lasith Malinga could also pose a considerable threat due to his uncanny knack of negating a placid surface with his full-on yorkers. England's pacemen like Stuart Broad and James Anderson who rely more on bounce may find life quite difficult on this pitch and will have to turn to spin-twins Graeme Swann and Samit Patel to lead the charge.
Meanwhile, Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan will be hoping to reverse his flagging form which has seen him score just 13 runs in the one-day series thus far. Granted, he has had to make do with a sore thumb which he picked up during the Tests. But he will be hoping he doesn't surrender too meekly as he did in the last game.
England captain Alastair Cook may have been doing well with the bat (as his chart-topping 267 runs will attest to), but his skills as captain have come under doubt due to an apparent inability to motivate his fellow-batsmen. If there was ever a time he needed his batters to fire collectively, it is now.