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Cook and Bopara to face Sri Lankans

By Callum Dent

Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara will get an early look at the Sri Lankan team ahead of the international summer after the pair were named in Essex’s team for today’s 50-over day/night clash.

England one-day international skipper Cook and all-rounder Bopara were both involved in their country’s victory over Scotland on Friday and will feature at the Essex County Ground.

Injured seamers David Masters and Graham Napier are both absent and may return for the start of the county’s NatWest T20 Blast campaign on Saturday, but Tymal Mills is expected to occupy the sidelines for another three weeks with a side strain.

The trio’s absence has paved the way for seamer Matt Salisbury, a regular member of the hosts’ second XI, to be handed a first-team debut while left-armer Reece Topley has recovered from a back problem and will make his maiden appearance of the season.

Head coach Paul Grayson is expecting a strong challenge from the tourists, saying: “They have some seriously good cricketers in their squad, but we are looking forward to the game because it will offer us some excellent cricket ahead of the start of our Twenty20 campaign on Saturday. 

“So this game has come at a good time. Okay it’s 50-over white-ball cricket, but for us it’s about having the opportunity to practice our one-day skills. It’s going to be a good challenge for us and I know all the lads are looking forward to it.”

Following the departure of Paul Farbrace, who accepted the role of England Assistant Coach after leading Sri Lanka to World T20 glory, Marvin Atapattu took over the reins for their tour of the UK.

England duo Alastair Cook, pictured, and Ravi Bopara will both represent Essex today in the 50-over day/night clash with the Sri Lankans

The 43-year-old played 90 Tests and won 268 one-day international caps for Sri Lanka and has already secured a 1-0 ODI series win over Ireland in his first assignment as coach.

After today’s game, Sri Lanka face England in a one-off NatWest T20 international before five Royal London ODI’s and two Investec Tests, with former batsman Atapattu relishing the challenge.

"Certainly there is more responsibility," he said. "But my task has been made easier by being someone who has been in the system, being with the lads and knowing everyone who is out on the cricket field, working with the same sort of staff and management, that has helped me, but it is a different role which I am now accountable for."

Meanwhile, skipper Angelo Mathews does not believe former coach Farbrace will have any inside knowledge to pass onto his new employers.

He said: "Everyone knows a little bit about the opposition, so I don't really think he has all the inside information.

"When it comes to an international cricket team, there are no secrets because you have so many videos of all the players, of the support staff as well.

"We had guys like Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga come into the team, but you cannot really hide them from playing international cricket."

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