Weather holds key to England's chances

England 118-3 v Sri Lanka Play resumes 10.15am today
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The Independent Online

England will return to the Rose Bowl this morning hoping to find Hampshire's delightful new ground bathed in sunshine, or in the middle of a deluge. Anything in between will considerably reduce their chances of defeating Sri Lanka and qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions' Trophy.

England will return to the Rose Bowl this morning hoping to find Hampshire's delightful new ground bathed in sunshine, or in the middle of a deluge. Anything in between will considerably reduce their chances of defeating Sri Lanka and qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions' Trophy.

Michael Vaughan's side will have been relatively pleased with the position they found themselves in yesterday before persistent rain caused play to be abandoned. In difficult conditions, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Flintoff batted with discipline and skill, taking their team to 118-3 in 32 overs.

In the context of most one-day contests, this total would not suggest that the batting side are in a particularly strong position. But on a slow, seaming pitch, and with an excellent bowling attack to call on, England are well on course for 220, a score that would put them in a formidable position.

Fine weather, along with further sensible batting, should allow England to reach a winning total but several hours of rain, followed by a bright afternoon, would give Sri Lanka a shortened run chase. This would suit England's opponents because Duckworth/ Lewis, the system used for calculating totals in rain affected matches, has stated that Sri Lanka would currently require 164 for victory if only 30 overs of play were possible, and 124 should there only be enough time for 20.

But an abandoned match would allow England to top Pool D and qualify for a plum tie against Australia at Edgbaston on Tuesday. Vaughan's side find themselves in this position by virtue of defeating Zimbabwe by a larger margin than yesterday's opponents.

Strong umpiring will be required because both teams will attempt to manufacture a situation where they benefit most, and the rules of the competition state that the side batting second must bat for 20 overs for the match to be officially recognised.

Sri Lanka will feel that they should have already wrapped this match up. Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa and Farveez Maharoof made batting difficult and both England's not out batsmen should have been dismissed before they reached double figures.

Trescothick was dropped on nine when Zoysa failed to get a hand on a leading edge at mid-off and Flintoff was grassed on one by Mahele Jayawardene at second slip off Vaas. Had these chances been taken, rain would have become England's best hope. But the continued presence of England's two most dangerous one-day batsmen may yet be rued by Sri Lanka.

England will find batting easier this morning. This has nothing to do with the pitch flattening out but everything to do with the way Atapattu handled his bowlers. In an attempt to bowl England out cheaply, the Sri Lankan captain mainly used his seamers. Vaas, Zoysa and Maharoof bowled 24 of their 30 over allocation and this means that England will face 12 overs of spin or occasional bowling should play start on time.

On a dank, miserable morning, the toss was always going to be crucial and Vaughan lost it once again. Many may feel he deserved to - his uncontrolled high flick of the coin went over his head and onto an adjacent pitch.

Yet the nature of his toss looked stylish compared to the stroke which led to his downfall. Vikram Solanki sparkled briefly before edging a catch through to the keeper, but it is hard to understand what was going through Vaughan's head when he stepped outside his off-stump and attempted to clip Zoysa over mid-wicket.

At the time, Vaughan was not under pressure to score runs and this was the stroke of a player who is struggling to come to terms with one-day cricket. He deserved to lose his middle stump. Andrew Strauss also seemed unsure of how to bat and foolishly ran himself out looking to take a second run to third man. Then Trescothick and Flintoff added sanity to their team's batting.

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