LONDON - England will hope history repeats itself when they begin their international programme against Sri Lanka with a lone Twenty20 international at The Oval on Tuesday. One of the few highlights for England during a recent tour programme that saw them surrender the Ashes 5-0 came in March when Alex Hales’ stunning 116 not out off just 64 balls saw them beat eventual champions Sri Lanka at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
England eventually bowed out of that tournament with a humiliating 45-run loss to the Netherlands while even Hales’s astonishing innings — the first century in a Twenty20 international by an England batsman — has threatened to become something of a millstone around the 25-year-old’s neck. Tradition still holds sway in England, the longer the game the more respect it is accorded.
That’s why many England fans regard Tuesday’s match and the five one-day internationals that follow as a ‘warm-up’ for the more ‘serious’ business of the two Test series with Sri Lanka. Hales, who has found himself on loan at Worcestershire from Nottinghamshire this season after averaging just 13.94 in County Championship cricket last term, would love to prove he’s more than just a Twenty20 specialist.
“I feel as though I’ve got the rest of the package too,” the powerful right-hander said Sunday. “I feel if they gave me the chance in 50 overs this summer I would be ready for it. I’ve seen a lot of Sri Lanka and I feel I would be ready for the chance if it came along.” Hales added: “It is a little bit harsh to pigeon-hole me as a Twenty20 player...I’m keen to learn from last year and put it behind me and move on.”
With regular Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad injured, England will be led on Tuesday by Middlesex and former Ireland batsman Eoin Morgan in what will be England’s first match against a Test-playing nation since Peter Moores was restored to the role of head coach. One plus point for Moores, is that Sri Lanka batting greats Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara both retired from this format after the six-wicket World Twenty20 final win over India in Dhaka.
But, as if to remind former Sussex wicketkeeper Moores of their enduring aptitude for Twenty20, Sri Lanka thrashed the south coast county by 10 wickets in a tour game on Sunday. Having held Sussex to 126 for seven, Sri Lanka sprinted to victory in just 9.1 overs with Tillakaratne Dilshan scoring 73 not out off 31 balls, including 16 fours, and Kithuruwan Vithanage an unbeaten 52 off 24 with five sixes.
With bowlers of the calibre of Lasith Malinga and Suranga Lakmal, as well as Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka remain a well-equipped ‘white ball’ side even without their two batting stars.