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Moeen Ali ready to rush his bowling, but not his thinking, as more rain looms in third ODI

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The northeast monsoon is in operation, more rain is on the way, and with further interruptions likely, spinners may again be asked to rush through the overs so that enough have been completed to constitute a game. This was what transpired in the second ODI in Dambulla. England’s quicks had reduced Sri Lanka to 35 for 4 at the end of nine overs, and in doing so had got their team miles in front of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score.

With clouds gathering to the south, Eoin Morgan threw the ball to his spinners. Their mandate: to get through 11 overs as quickly as possible, so the minimum 20 could be completed. But in rushing through, England did give Sri Lanka a faint glimmer of hope, Dhananjaya de Silva forging recoveries with Kusal Perera initially, and then Thisara Perera. Having been allowed to ease themselves in through a period in which England’s priority was not on maintaining optimal pressure on the opposition, Dhananjaya and Thisara were approaching half-centuries when the rain did eventually come, and wash out the remainder of the match.

England were still comfortable winners, but they have nevertheless taken stock of the fact that they were not as clinical through those 11 overs as they would have liked to be.

“You’ve got to rush through the overs but not rush through your bowling,” said Moeen Ali, who delivered five of those 11 overs. “You’re rushing through field placings, and your thinking’s not as clear. I think once we got the 20 overs out of the way we took our time a little bit as usual. We’ve spoken about that and we’ve got to counter that and take that into the equation. There may be a time when the situation gets like that again, and we’ve got to be a bit smarter.”

Batsmen have often spoken of being frustrated by rain interruptions, which serve sometimes to break concentration and sap their innings of momentum. Bowlers also have to adjust to shortened games, Moeen said, though with the rise of T20, defending a total over a fewer number of overs is perhaps not the challenge it once was.

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“With so much T20 around now it does help a little bit to adjust, because you know about the shorter game. Field restrictions are different. I think it’s more about staying in the moment. Each over that you bowl is very, very important.”

Though England played no fewer than three frontline spinners on Saturday, with left-arm spinner Liam Dawson joining the more-established pairing of Moeen and Adil Rashid, England will be without Dawson for the rest of the series, after he suffered a side strain during that second ODI. As a result, England’s XI is likely to look more like the team they field at home, with a third seamer likely to enter the side in Dawson’s place.

“We’ll just probably go back to the balance of the team we’ve had over the last few years,” Moeen said. “It’s a shame for Daws. It would have been a great opportunity to play regularly. I think that’s something he’s been wanting for a while. Unfortunately it hasn’t happened for him.”

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