England look to make hay in seamers' paradise

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan is unlikely to get a better opportunity to reach the semi-final of a major tournament than today in Southampton.

Michael Vaughan is unlikely to get a better opportunity to reach the semi-final of a major tournament than today in Southampton. Sri Lanka, England's opponents, may be ranked the second best one-day side in the world - after winning 17 of their last 18 games - but this Champions' Trophy match will be played in conditions tailor-made for the home side.

Given the choice, an English seamer would select the Rose Bowl as the ground where they would most like to ply their trade. The pitch at this glorious new venue is five years old and its youthful nature gives the pacemen plenty to work with. New surfaces take time to settle down and this one offers lateral movement, along with inconsistent bounce.

Hampshire's bowling figures at the ground this summer highlight the fact. Dimitri Mascarenhas is a capable, if somewhat limited, medium pacer, yet he has been able to outbowl Shane Warne, arguably the best spinner the game has ever seen. This season Mascarenhas' 29 wickets have come at an average of 14.5 runs each, whereas Warne's 24 have cost 25.

In Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa and Farveez Maharoof, Sri Lanka possess fast bowlers who need to be treated with respect, but this match will ultimately be decided by the toss, and how the visitors cope with England's seam attack.

Should Vaughan call incorrectly, and find himself batting first, this could be a close contest. But should England bowl; it is difficult to see Sri Lanka's batsmen scoring freely against Stephen Harmison, Darren Gough and Andrew Flintoff.

Fatigue could be England's biggest problem. During the last seven months England have been involved in 11 Test matches and 17 one-dayers.

It is a concern Vaughan shares. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't tiredness within the team," he admitted. "It is more a problem for the big lads who bowl but when you are in a rich vein of form you just want to keep going. There are three big games still to play."

England are unlikely to change their side from that which thumped Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka could still ruin Vaughan's dream of a semi-final against Australia if England's top-order fails to show greater discipline than they did at Edgbaston a week ago.

ENGLAND (probable): M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), A J Strauss (Middlesex), A Flintoff (Lancashire), P D Collingwood (Durham), G O Jones (Kent, wkt), A F Giles (Warwickshire), A G Wharf (Glamorgan), D Gough (Yorkshire), S J Harmison (Durham).

SRI LANKA (from): M S Atapattu (capt), D A Gunawardene, S T Jayasuriya, W S Jayantha, K C Sangakkara (wkt), M D Jayawardene, T M Dilshan, U D U Chandana, M F Maharoof, W P U J C Vaas, D N T Zoysa, K S Lokuarachchi, C R D Fernando, S L Malinga.

Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) & D B Hair (Aus).