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Morgan’s England set to face a more formidable Sri Lankan challenge in upcoming ODI series

Related Link: Royal London ODI Series 2016

England will be looking to continue their transformation into one of the world’s finest ODI sides when their five-match series against Sri Lanka gets underway at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.

After comfortably seeing off Angelo Mathews’ side 2-0 in the recent Test series, Eoin Morgan’s men will surely face a sterner examination in a format much more to Sri Lanka’s liking.

Such has been the pace of change in the 50-over game in recent years, it is hard to imagine that the last series in England between these sides in 2014 yielded just one score of 300 in a five-match series that Sri Lanka won 3-2. The England line-up, and attitude, has changed quite dramatically since then. However, one man who will remember it keenly is Jos Buttler who was controversially run-out by Sachithra Senanayake when backing up at the non-striker’s end in the series decider at Edgbaston. Buttler has since put the ‘Mankad’ behind him and has gone on to become a key man in the team’s middle order with the three fastest ODI England hundreds already to his name.

Above photo: NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND – JUNE 20: England captain Eoin Morgan and Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews hold the Royal London ODI series trophy at Trent Bridge on June 20, 2016 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

After a stint in the IPL with the Mumbai Indians, where he finished as their third top scorer, Buttler has not really hit his straps in the English domestic season for Lancashire with just a couple of half centuries intermingled with a number of single-figure scores.

However, the 25-year-old wicketkeeper thrives on the big occasion and will be anxious to remind the Test selectors of his undoubted ability with this series pitting him and incumbent Test keeper Jonny Bairstow in the same side. There is sure to be a private battle between the pair, and with Bairstow in the form of his life – averaging 129 at a strike rate of nearly 70 in the recent Tests – fans are sure to be treated to some swashbuckling stroke play in the middle order reflected in the battle for top England batsman on Bet365.

Bairstow’s inclusion will be in place of Ben Stokes, with the talismanic all-rounder missing the series after recently undergoing knee surgery. Stokes’ absence poses a number of interesting questions for the England side as his ability to fill the role of destructive middle-order batsman, death bowler and gun fielder mean he will be sorely missed.Stokes is the one England player who cannot easily be replaced, but this series offers the opportunity to test out some options whilst attempting to collect points towards the newly-implemented Super Series as they build towards next year’s ICC Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup, both being hosted in the UK. England are currently priced at 11/2 in the latest cricket odds so, if all goes well, they could be worth a punt.

Sri Lanka are in a transitional phase as they look to rebuild after the retirements of their world-class trio of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga,while opener Tillakaratne Dilshan also misses this series for personal reasons. With two crushing defeats over Ireland at Malahide last week, which saw centuries for Kusal Perera and Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka will not be short of confidence and this could well prove to be a tightly-fought contest.

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