Curran brothers are both given the nod as England mess with the formula

Will Macpherson
Dream day: Sam (left) and Tom Curran on Tuesday, before becoming the first brothers to play together for England since Ben and Adam Hollioake, who last did so in 1999: Getty Images

With this series already won, England opted for an eye-catching, experimental selection in the Fifth ODI against Sri Lanka here in the capital.

Captain Eoin Morgan dropped himself, as he has previously threatened to, in one of three changes. Jos Buttler took over from Morgan and moved up to his spot at No4, while Tom and Sam Curran became the first brothers to play together for England since Adam and Ben Hollioake, another pair of dynamic Surrey all-rounders, in 1999.

The Currans have amassed 24 international games between them since Tom’s international debut last June, but this is their first appearance together. They are the sixth sets of brothers to play cricket together for England after the Hearnes, Graces and Studds (all in the 19th century), the Richardsons in the 1950s and then the Hollioakes.

With Buttler losing the toss and England being invited to field, Sam — at 20, the younger brother — was brought into the action as Mark Wood’s new-ball partner. Wood and Liam Plunkett were the other players recalled, with Chris Woakes and Olly Stone sitting it out.

Sri Lanka made a flying start, with four boundaries coming from Curran’s second over. To add to the unusual feel of the day, England had used six bowlers after 14 overs and were looking at a stern chase later as Sri Lanka racked up 119 without loss after 16 overs.

England resisted the temptation to play Joe Denly, but have still used 16 players in the series and the XI for the fifth match shows a total of five changes from the washed out first, such are the chances presented by a 3-0 advantage at the end of a low-key series.

England have five matches before they must name their World Cup squad on April 23 (it can be changed due to injury after that), and competition for bowling places is reaching fever pitch.

Six of the 15 places are likely to go to fast bowlers, with three of those being Ben Stokes, Woakes and Plunkett. That leaves Wood and Sam Curran seeking to impress and usurp the pace of Stone and left-arm angle of David Willey.

Morgan’s decision to drop himself came about due to his own control over the side and a desire to give other players opportunities. He has scored 195 for just once out in four innings this series, while Buttler, from No6, has faced just 28 balls in a single innings. Moeen Ali, who was promoted to No7 today, got a golden duck in his only knock.

That both players are likely to be key in the Test series — not least Buttler, with Jonny Bairstow currently injured, and Moeen from No3 — is not ideal. England’s backroom staff have long wanted to find a permanent home for Buttler higher in the ODI order, but he will have plenty on his plate today.

Plunkett and Moeen have spoken this week in glowing terms about Morgan’s captaincy, and he has created a “culture” that Joe Root, a mere foot soldier here, wants to mimic with the Test side.

This tour, through the rain, has seen a rise in standards off the field (both extracurricularly, and in training), with the approaching World Cup crystallising that competition for places.

Today, even in a dead rubber and with the captain watching from the dugout, there was plenty at stake.