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England take Sri Lanka series but was the trip really of any value?

SAM MORSHEAD: It marked the end of a hugely predictable and massively disappointing trip for the white-ball squad; an exercise in futility when they could have been much better served by a month of rest and recuperation

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Sam Morshead | 10/20/2018 at 11:53 AM

Pallekele: Sri Lanka 273-7, England 132-2 (England won by 18 runs - DLS)

England claimed series victory in Sri Lanka in the most fitting manner possible - huddled together in the Pallekele pavilion, hiding from the rain.

Once again, this poorly-timed trip to the subcontinental island during monsoon season brought a match truncated by the elements.

Once again, in the time that wasn’t drowned out by torrential showers and overshadowed by dark clouds, England retained near-total control.

Once again, they won comfortably, keeping Sri Lanka to a competitive but highly achievable score and then going about the chase with class and calm.

When the storm arrived, as it has done almost daily on this unnecessary visit, they were easily ahead on Duckworth-Lewis and now lead 3-0 in the series with a game to play.

It marked the end of a hugely predictable and massively disappointing trip for the white-ball squad; an exercise in futility when they could have been much better served by a month of rest and recuperation.

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Eoin Morgan and Joe Root saw England home

Nasser Hussain summed the lunacy of the past fortnight up well as he and his Sky Sports colleagues padded out time with lightning flashing over the scoreboard at the Pallekele International Stadium.

“Time is very valuable to international cricketers,” he said.

“It’s not on to send professional cricketers around the world, to sit in hotel rooms and watch it rain.

“It is quality not quantity. This is not good enough.”

It’s hard to argue with Hussain and, for all England’s pointing at the Future Tours Programme and the hectic schedule of world cricket, as one of the global game’s foremost members it must be on the ECB to initiate change.

The whole fiasco should be a lesson for years to come. As Hussain says, quality not quantity. You wouldn’t plan for an ODI in Scarborough in February.

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Seven thousand miles from the Yorkshire coast, and when conditions were sticky rather than sodden, Sri Lanka started brightly.

Sadeera Samarawickrama perished early, prodding outside the off stump to Chris Woakes and gifting Jos Buttler a simple catch, but Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal ensured there would be no top-order collapse.

Driving confidently against pace and mixing an array of sweeps with able work down the ground against the turning ball, the Sri Lankan pair put together their country’s best partnership of the series.

England brought the stand to an end at 70, with the overall score 89, when Chandimal skipped down the track to Moeen Ali only to be totally beaten in the flight, the ball dipping and turning back to take the top of his off stump but Dickwella pushed on to his half-century.

The wicketkeeper’s seventh fifty in one-day internationals came from 65 balls, but just when a first Sri Lankan century in 50-over cricket this year looked likely, he misjudged a sweep - which until that point had brought him the bulk of his runs - and Moeen claimed the lbw.

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Akila Dananjaya took two wickets

Dhananjaya de Silva should have been stumped first ball, playing a carelessly aggressive shot to Moeen only for Jos Buttler to snatch at the chance, but Adil Rashid made up for the mistake by pinning Kusal Mendis leg-before on the back foot the very next delivery.

From a position of some promise, Sri Lanka were suddenly scratching for stability.

This time, though, the lower middler order fired.

Dasun Shanaka took a counter-attacking approach, short-arm jabbing Rashid over long-on for six before cracking Moeen over the midwicket ropes.

He and De Silva added 52 for the fifth wicket and, although Tom Curran enticed a nibble out of his partner on 17, Shanaka pushed on.

His sparky knock was eventually curtailed on 66, run out by a combination of Morgan and Woakes after he had been sent back by Thisara Perera, but between them Thisara Perera and Akila Dananjaya lifted Sri Lanka to a competitive total.

Roy and Alex Hales took little time getting into their stride. Hales, playing his first competitive game since Notts Outlaws’ T20 Blast quarter-final against Somerset in August, drove neatly through the covers and chopped Lasith Malinga to the point boundary, while Roy produced a pair of stand-and-deliver boundaries down the ground off Amila Aponso.

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Dasun Shanaka made 66 before being run out

There was a period where it felt as though Sri Lanka could see their chances evaporate within the first 20 overs but a smart piece of glovework from Dickwella saw Hales stumped off Dananjaya for 12.

Roy followed for 45, Danajaya’s second victim, before Morgan and Root consolidated.

While Root was conservative, Morgan ticked along at a run a ball with effortless ease, combining his two most effective shots - the in-to-out aerial drive and the reverse sweep - with distinction.

It started to become really quite comfortable for the tourists.

With the dark clouds approaching and Duckworth-Lewis calculations being furiously made, England received an almighty let-off when Root, having dollied a top edge to short fine leg, was called back after square leg umpire Lyndon Hannibal spotted Sri Lanka had too many players outside the inner circle.

That was the hosts’ chance. England’s pair became increasingly conservative from there on in, as the clouds gathered and spectators sardined themselves under the limited canopies that dotted the stadium’s grass banks.

Then came the rain and, just like that, the series was over as a contest.

It’s not entirely clear that it ever truly began.

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