England captain Eoin Morgan already has a more awkward task on his hands than his Test counterpart Alastair Cook as he tries to work out the best line-up to face Sri Lanka.
Cook was able to get into the habit of naming his team fully 24 hours in advance as England won the Investec series 2-0 against the same opponents.But with rain disrupting practice at Trent Bridge – England had to net indoors for the second successive day – Morgan faces much tighter calls before he can announce his XI for today’s first one-day international.
Ben Stokes’ injury-enforced absence from the Royal London Series is part of Morgan’s problem, as is the conundrum of how to find room for in-form batsman Jonny Bairstow to return for his first ODI since the end of last summer.
England can hardly ignore Bairstow’s prolific run-making over the past 12 months, but Stokes’ unavailability means they may need to sacrifice an extra bowling option to shoehorn the Yorkshireman back into the team.
Morgan gestured up to the skies and across to a square under full cover with rain falling as he explained tricky decisions lie ahead, saying: “A day where the wicket doesn’t see sunlight or fresh air can create a dilemma in selection, so I’m not looking to announce [the team] now.
“[All-rounder] Moeen Ali gives you the luxury of going either way, with bat or ball.”
Whoever takes the field, Morgan acknowledges further progress is needed despite England’s vast improvement in white-ball cricket since the start of last summer, including their run to the final of the ICC World Twenty20 under his captaincy.
“If you look at where we sit in the ICC [ODI] rankings, we’re actually below Sri Lanka – and that’s a reflection of our performances over the last number of years,” said the Irishman.
As for England’s near miss in the World Twenty20 in India two months ago, he added: “I don’t know if it’s a springboard, but it’s certainly a huge confidence-booster.
“This is a key summer in that we’re 12 months down the road [following the 2015 World Cup], and we have built a lot of confidence.
“There’s a bit more expectation on us as a side, and it’s important to relish that expectation. We’re still at the beginning of building for what we hope will be a successful campaign in the 2019 World Cup.”
Sri Lanka too will be out to continue preparations both for that event and the preceding Champions Trophy in England next summer.
More immediately, they have endured the shock of discovering – on their short trip to Ireland over the past week – that seamer Shaminda Eranga has an elevated heartbeat.
Captain Angelo Mathews, first to speak to Eranga after he began to feel unwell warming up in the interval between innings in Dublin on Saturday, could only report that further tests are being carried out.
Eranga would have had to sit out this five-match series in any case, after being found to have an illegal bowling action.
The circumstances in which his health problems surfaced are uncannily similar to those encountered by former England batsman James Taylor at the start of this summer.
There are no suggestions yet that Eranga’s condition is as serious as that which forced Taylor’s retirement at the age of 26.
Mathews said: “He was warming up – and just before we went on the field, he said ‘something happened to me, can you touch my heart because it is beating fast?’
“I felt something unusual, so I quickly called the physio [who] went for the doctor with him. It was a shocking incident. He’s [still] undergoing those tests [for] an elevated heartbeat.”