England outclassed by Sri Lanka

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Sunday, 01 March 2015 10:48

Sri Lanka 312 for 1 (Thirimanne 139*, Sangakkara 117*) beat England 309 for 6 (Root 121, Bell 49) by nine wickets.

Sri Lanka made a chase of 310 seem like a weekend stroll in the park as Kumar Sangakkara unfurled a majestic hundred, his second of the tournament, alongside Lahiru Thirimanne's fourth ODI ton. They ensured Joe Root's hundred became merely a footnote and left England facing two must-win matches to make the quarter-finals.

The pair added 212 for the second wicket in 28.2 overs with Sangakkara racing to his hundred from 70 balls - his fastest one-day hundred - to follow his 76-ball 105 against Bangladesh at the MCG as he shredded England's attack with piercing drives, dismissive pulls and the occasional touch of deftness.

Thirimanne's century, which came from 117 balls, meant Sri Lanka's top four all have three-figure scores now. He made England pay for missing him on 3 when an outside edge was dropped by Root at first slip, although the blame has to go to Jos Buttler who started to move for the chance before bailing out.



In a sign of how Sangakkara dominated, check this. When Thirimanne moved into the 90s Sangakkara was on 28 but had reached 78 by the time Thirimanne squeezed the single to reach his landmark. A ball ago, he had been spilled for a second time, on 98, with Moeen Ali not able to hold a low catch at cover.

It was a late decision by Sri Lanka to open with Thirimanne, only made during the recent series against New Zealand, but before this innings he had already impressed. Even a reunion with his nemesis James Anderson, who has dismissed him seven times in all internationals, did not prove a problem. And he had the honour of finishing the most clinical of chases with his second six.

England had punched reasonably hard in the latter part of their innings - the last 15 overs bringing 148 runs - but their effort was put firmly into context by the way Sri Lanka cantered to the target with 16 balls to spare. It continued a prolific few days for Sri Lanka's top order; they piled up 332 for 1 against Bangladesh after unconvincing displays against New Zealand and Afghanistan.

The way Sri Lanka eased through the chase brought back memories of the 2011 World Cup quarter-final when they won by 10 wickets and means their last two World Cup matches against England have brought combined batting efforts of 543 for 1.

It was a humbling experience for England's attack which did not possess the variety, or seemingly the nous, to force Sri Lanka's batsmen to change their game. Only Moeen (and a little bit of Root) provided any alternative to right-arm fast-medium, with Moeen giving England their one success when Tillakaratne Dilshan flipped a leading edge to midwicket.

However, by then the opening stand of 100 had already knocked the stuffing out of England, ensuring any feel-good factor from Root's innings was distant memory. James Anderson and Stuart Broad started reasonably tightly but Dilshan took to Broad with two sixes in the eighth over which Thirimanne followed with two strong drives against Anderson in the next.

Steven Finn's improved performance against Scotland was put into perspective as he laboured under another barrage although it was not quite of Brendon McCullum proportions. Meanwhile, it was another chastening World Cup day for Anderson as he barely moved a ball on the ground where Tim Southee swung his way to 7 for 33.

Eoin Morgan had not let that result against New Zealand, where England crumbled for 123, change his way of thinking as he again batted first and the final outcome would have left him reasonably comfortable after a strong finish engineered by Root, James Taylor and Buttler. But there were still significant stages when England stalled, especially the period between overs five and 25 which brought 76 runs with Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera and Dilshan tying the batsmen down.

Gary Ballance's horror World Cup continued when he limply prodded a return catch back to Dilshan to leave him with 36 runs in four innings and facing the axe as England, somehow, try to revive their campaign. Dilshan's first spell of flat offspin was 5-0-15-1 and revived memories of the aforementioned 2011 quarter-final when he flummoxed the top order with a four-over spell for nine.

The innings could have been permanently derailed if Root had been held at slip on 2 by Mahela Jayawardene. Instead, he became the youngest England century-marker at a World Cup - overtaking David Gower by two years - a statistic Thirimanne was later to repeat for Sri Lanka. The hundred came at a run-a-ball following a productive 2014 for Root in one-day cricket during which he scored three hundreds in the space of nine months.

Root's hundred was followed by a 25-run over - Perera's eighth - that included two audacious reverse sweeps, one of which carried over third man for six. He dominated a 98-run fifth-wicket stand in 11 overs alongside Taylor which was England's highest for that wicket in World Cup. Root, after an innings full of skilful placement, eventually fell for a career-best 121 reverse sweeping at Rangana Herath who was later forced off the field with one ball of his spell remaining when a fierce straight drive from Buttler damaged a finger.

Neither could Suranga Lakmal complete his last over after being hauled off for two high full tosses. Yet while Sri Lanka may not have been faultless in the field, they were perfect with the bat.

Rating: 5 Read 242 times

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