Sri Lanka not home and dry against Three Lions

SRI LANKA vs ENGLAND

TOMORROW – 9.00 AM SKY SPORTS

ENGLAND’S World Cup story has taken more twists and turns than a Bollywood classic and in spite of themselves – just as in all good movies – the protagonists of this tale still have the chance of a happy ending. If the Three Lions are to reach the final in Mumbai, the home of Indian cinema, then they need to negotiate a couple of the toughest examinations en route. Sri Lanka are first-up tomorrow morning, and should they pass that test, then another stern assessment awaits in the last four. That would most likely be South Africa, with the Proteas expected to beat New Zealand today.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Andrew Strauss and co. cannot afford to look beyond the showdown with the Lankans. The event co-hosts are comfortable favourites at 8/15 and the key for England is to quieten the boisterous Colombo supporters who will be desperate for the 1996 champions to replicate their victory on home soil. Sri Lanka earned their place in the quarters with four Group A wins and progressed with the competition’s best net run rate. However, they lost to Pakistan and their match against Australia was finely poised before rain stopped play.

Of course, if England perform as they did against Netherlands, Ireland or Bangladesh, then this will be over in no time, but, as bad as they were facing the smaller sides, they were a different proposition versus the big boys, going unbeaten against India, South Africa and West Indies. If it is a question of motivation, then England should not be found wanting from here on in, with every fixture do or die. A lot has been made of fatigue in the camp, but Andy Flower is likely to call on some fresh blood. Luke Wright made a valuable contribution against the Windies and Surrey seamer Jade Dernbach could be called in to lift the bowling attack.

England are the value call at 13/8 with Victor Chandler. The batting unit must perform and handle the threat of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga to do so. Kumar Sangakkara is the danger with the bat having hit 363 runs so far. It could be a risky strategy, but there is an argument for a small sell of Sri Lanka supremacy at 15 with Sporting Index. The Three Lions won by six wickets when the sides last met at the 2009 Champions Trophy and earned a 3-2 victory in the previous ODI series in Sri Lanka in 2007 which they clinched with a five wicket triumph on this ground.

Pointers...

England to win at 15/8 with Victor Chandler

Sell Sri Lanka supremacy with Sporting Index at 15

WALES vs ENGLAND

TOMORROW – 3.00 PM SKY SPORTS

Gareth Bale’s latest injury setback puts a major spanner in the works for Gary Speed’s preparations against England and it looks to have robbed Wales of the slim chance they had of victory. Bookies quickly reacted, with Victor Chandler pushing the Welsh out to 8/1, and the visitors have contracted to 2/5 on Betdaq to take the three points which would return them to the Group G summit.

On paper, the Welsh are in a bit of a mess. They’ve lost six of their last seven games and there is a palpable gulf in quality. Although England should certainly win, it may not be as straightforward as the prices suggest. The Dragons will be fired up and Speed won’t have to worry about rousing his troops with a large Premier League contingent in his squad. Even without Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy are weapons which can hurt England, and a full house at the Millennium Stadium will provide a very vocal backing.

The last times these sides met, in World Cup qualifiers in 2004 and 2005, England reigned 2-0 at home and 1-0 away and I don’t think they’ll canter to victory this time either. They looked short on firepower when they drew with Montenegro and lost to France at home without scoring, before narrowly beating Denmark last time out. And Wales are a far better side at home where they have lost by more than two goals just twice since the start of 2000.

It was all-square at the break when the sides last met in Cardiff and backing the draw half-time/England full-time double result at 10/3 on Betdaq is better value than taking England in the outright market. It is worth backing the 1-0 and 2-0 to England correct scores at 5/1 and 11/2 on Betdaq respectively, advice which leads to a recommendation to spread bettors to sell goals with Sporting Index at 2.6.

Pointers...

Back draw half-time/England full-time at 14/5 with Victor Chandler

Back England to win 1-0 and 2-0 at 5/1 and 11/2 on Betdaq

Sell total goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index

BEHIND THE LINES

On current form and all things being equal, it’s very difficult to go against a confident-looking Sri Lanka, considering England only just limped into the last eight. However, you must factor in the enormous pressure that the Sri Lankans will be under when they walk out to a stadium full of fans and with millions of expectant TV viewers at home. Given the resilience of their opponents, this one-off contest might not go as planned. Should England win the toss and rack up a score of 270-280, don’t expect the Sri Lankans to still be 1/2 for the match.

From one average England team to another, and the national football team’s visit to the Millennium Stadium. Like Fabio Capello’s men, Wales look very ordinary but do have some standout players. Before his injury, Aaron Ramsey was every bit as impressive as his Arsenal colleague Jack Wilshere and he could be a key player. Gareth Bale’s absence is a huge blow for the Welsh, though, and they will particularly miss his threat from set-pieces. We are best-price on both Wales, at 8/1, and the draw, at 15/4.

If you do fancy both England teams to win this weekend, we’re offering an enhanced 3/1 England double.