England captain Eoin Morgan is pleased with his side’s increasing depth in the bowling department after an encouraging first performance from fast-bowler Olly Stone in the tourists’ comfortable victory in the second ODI against Sri Lanka.
Stone made his debut in the first match of the series but did not get to the bowl after rain washed the game out after just 15 overs of England’s innings. He got his chance today in Dambulla and made an immediate impression, removing Niroshan Dickwella with a quick bouncer which the batsman could only fend to the keeper. It was a stark example of the sort of pace which Stone is capable of and the reason why he has been picked for this tour.
The 25-year-old has been selected in both matches ahead of Mark Wood who has been England’s one-day opening bowler for the best part of a year. Stone has also benefited from the absence of Liam Plunkett, who is missing the first three games of the series to get married while England also has Tom and Sam Curran on this tour and Jake Ball at home.
It is an embarrassment of riches in the fast-bowling stocks to go with a raft of talented batsmen. Plenty of good cricketers are being kept out of England’s side at present. “It is unfortunate, but when a side is doing well it tends to be the case that guys are sitting out who would be in any other team,” Morgan said. “Due to the success of the team, it’s unfortunate they miss out.”
Plunkett has been England’s best fast-bowler over the past 12 months but Stone has similar attributes: tall, quick and with an ability to hit a consistent uncomfortable length. Although it is too early to make a judgement on how Stone will perform long-term, it seems England may have found a bowler to provide competition and depth for the enforcer role which Plunkett has played.
“To be honest there hasn’t been a huge amount of depth in one position and that’s replacing Liam Plunkett,” Morgan said. “He’s been phenomenal for us for the last few years and he went down in Australia and we found it very difficult to get a bowler with the same attributes – to bowl quick and change the pace of the game at any stage of the 50 overs.
“There were signs today suggest Olly could be one of those guys. Even taking the new ball gives him a new string to his bow. Liam doesn’t really do that. I don’t think you can disregard Olly from the World Cup based on today.”
Sri Lanka was four wickets down inside the Powerplay and although Stone’s pace and aggression caught the headlines, the contribution of Chris Woakes shouldn’t be overlooked. The all-rounder missed all of England’s ODI matches in the summer because of injury but he looked back to his best here, picking up three wickets in his opening burst. His performance took some pressure off the debutant.
“Woakes has been doing quite a lot, and goes overlooked a lot of the time,” Morgan said. “He really set the tone, he made a relaxing impression early on for Olly to come in and do exactly what he does. Olly bowled exactly as he has in the nets and warm-up and that’s a really good sign. He had pace, got the ball moving. It was all done with a calm head.”
Stone and Woakes were not the only fast-bowlers who had a good day. Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga reconfirmed his class with a five-wicket haul which included a fine spell of death bowling. He bowled Moeen Ali, first ball, and Liam Dawson with two brilliant yorkers to show that despite losing some pace, he has lost none of his skill. After being out of the team for nearly a year, the 35-year-old now has his sights on next year’s World Cup.
“I feel that if I get the chance to play the World Cup, I will,” Malinga said. “It will be my last World Cup. I’m not expecting to get the chance, given the kinds of things that have happened to me over the recent past. But I will take it if it is given.
“The selectors are entitled to make those decisions. I’m just a player. My only job is to play when I get the chance. When I was out of the team, I went and played in Canada. I also played the district competition and got the highest wickets. Thanks to those performances I got another chance at this level. Because I’m nearing the end of my career I’m motivated to get wickets.”