Stone can plug Plunkett gap, says Morgan
Tourists win by 31 runs to take 1-0 lead in ODI series Paceman soon seizes his chance with early wicket
Olly Stone needed just seven balls to take his first international wicket and announce his arrival as an England fast bowler as Eoin Morgan’s team took a 1-0 lead in the one-day international series against Sri Lanka.
Stone, 25, has had a career beset by injury but showed few nerves as he took his chance to lay down a marker for England’s World Cup squad.
He bounced out Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella and bowled with pace and aggression to complete a good day for Morgan, who scored 92 to put his team in a strong position. The monsoon eventually cut the game short but England won the second one-day international – the first was a washout – by 31 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
England have lots of depth in their batting but bowling has been a weak link in their rise to the top of the world rankings. Stone now gives Morgan competition for places with Liam Plunkett missing the first three games of this series for his wedding. Tom and Sam Curran are both in this squad and Mark Wood was left out yesterday for the extra spinner, Liam Dawson.
“Olly was relaxed and bowled like he did in the nets,” said Morgan. “He bowled with pace and did it all with a calm head on his shoulders.
“If there has not been a huge amount of depth in one position it has been replacing Liam Plunkett. He was injured in Australia and we found it very hard to find a bowler with his attributes who could bowl quick at any stage but there were signs today Olly could be one of those guys. Even taking the new ball gives him another string to his bow, Liam does not take the new ball.”
England beat Sri Lanka and the monsoon rains to go 1-0 up in the one-day international series, but much more importantly they leave Dambulla with a new fast bowler who could be a star of next year’s World Cup.
Olly Stone’s pace and bounce on a slow Sri Lankan pitch was the glimmer of justification for playing a series that is really only designed to fill television schedules and honour bilateral obligations between the two countries, which is why it has been shoehorned into the rainy season.
Stone potentially provides Eoin Morgan, England’s white-ball captain, with the final piece in an already imposing one-day team. The 25-year-old Warwickshire fast bowler bagged his first international wicket with his seventh ball, bouncing out Niroshan Dickwella.
He then welcomed Kusal Perera by hitting him on the shoulder first ball. He struck either the bat hard or the body of the batsman, and if he keeps this up he could force himself into the Test team too, with captain Joe Root using this five-match series as a chance to sit back and assess his options.
England won by 31 runs by the Duckworth-Lewis method, with Sri Lanka 140 for five, chasing 279, when the heavy rain arrived. Sri Lanka hammered Stone a bit when he came back on to bowl as they chased the DL target but it was not enough to dent the good impression he made on his captain, whose 92 was the cornerstone of his team’s win.
“If there has not been a huge amount of depth in one position it has been replacing Liam Plunkett,” Morgan said. “He has been massive for us for the past few years. He went down injured in Australia and we found it very hard to find a bowler with his attributes who could bowl quick at any stage in the 50 overs, but there were signs today that Olly could be one of those guys. Even taking the new ball gives him another string to his bow – Liam does not take the new ball.
“He was relaxed and he bowled like he did in the nets. He bowled with pace and got it moving and did it all with a calm head on his shoulders.”
Officially, this was Stone’s second game after Wednesday’s washout, but it was the first time he had managed to get the ball in his hands.
He combined nicely with his county colleague Chris Woakes, who hit the seam and bowled a full length, as Sri Lanka were blown away by England’s new-ball attack, losing three wickets for 20 runs in the first five overs as if they were playing on a green top in Durham rather than in the Dambulla jungle. It was these early wickets that put them so far behind when the rain arrived.
England have been itching to see Stone bowl in earnest. The chatter all week has been that Stone has rushed people in the nets and Jos Buttler admitted that facing him has not been fun. With Plunkett missing the first three games of this series to get married this is Stone’s chance, especially when he was picked ahead of Mark Wood.
Sometimes players can be nervous when bowling for England for the first time and cut down on their speed to maintain accuracy, but that is not the way in Morgan’s ODI team. He wants players to express themselves.
Stone reached 90mph in his first over as he seized his chance. His first spell was a tidy one, too, with his four overs costing only seven runs.
England’s total of 278 for nine felt a little disappointing after the performances of Root and Morgan, England’s two best players of spin, who made 71 and 92 respectively.
Root was sublime on his way to his half-century, taking on Sri Lanka’s mystery spinners and employing his footwork and precision to pick his spots.
Morgan started slowly but swept well, finding his scoring range as he took the attack to Sri Lanka, even though he was not always comfortable picking the variations of left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan.
Root eased to 50 off 54 balls but then became a little bogged down and his frustration was summed up by the whack of bat on pad when he was caught off a leading edge.
At 209 for four with 10 overs to go, England were full steam ahead for the final assault that is their speciality. But Lasith Malinga rolled back the years with the type of death-bowling performance that has made him a very rich man.
He also bowled well with the new ball, and, with a keen eye on the World Cup, he has lost weight by working hard on his fitness to fight his way back into the Sri Lanka team at the age of 35.
But it is with the old ball, in the final few overs, when batsmen are ready to take him on, that Malinga reveals his full range of skills. He held back the yorker until England’s final charge, when they lost five wickets for 36, starting with captain Morgan, caught off a leading edge for 92.
Moeen Ali was bowled first ball by a late-dipping yorker and Woakes was lbw to another full delivery. Liam Dawson was then bowled by a Malinga special and England had to bat out the last three overs with the final pair at the crease.
Nevertheless, their 278 always felt a target too far for a Sri Lanka team un- sure of their best batting line-up and so short on confidence.
Dickwella pulled out the Dilscoop in the first over, lifting Woakes for six over long leg, but moments later Upal Tharanga was out first ball to a Woakes beauty that pitched on off and just nipped away.
Stone then announced his arrival. A short ball surprised Dickwella, who gloved a looping catch that plopped into the gloves of Buttler, dropping as slowly as one of Malinga’s yorkers.
With the clouds brewing up over the hills, Morgan brought on his spinners to whip through the overs, knowing that if the innings reached 20 overs it would constitute a game. Sri Lanka slogged some boundaries but the jungle rain was not going to be held back.
Impressive: Olly Stone took his chance to shine against Sri Lanka and lay down a World Cup marker
Breakthrough: Olly Stone is congratulated by England teammates after taking his first ODI wicket with the dismissal of Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella