Impressive Sri Lanka levelled the Royal London One-Day International Series with a comprehensive 157-run win over England at the Emirates Durham ICG.
Having been asked to bat under typically overcast skies, the tourists forewent their usual brand of attacking strokeplay in favour of a controlled approach.
It paid dividends, too, as Tillakaratne Dilshan’s 88 secured a total of 256 for eight on a surface that consistently offered a smattering of assistance to seam.
England were left to rue a lacklustre display in the field, too, with 15 wides and a couple of dropped catches proving costly.
Even so, hopes were high of chasing a total that appeared par until Nuwan Kulasekara rocked England’s top order with three quick wickets.
But the home side, skippered by Eoin Morgan after Alastair Cook was ruled out with a groin strain, never recovered and were ultimately dismissed for 99 in 25.4 overs, Sachithra Senanayake following up Kulasekara’s good work with 4-13.
While Sri Lankan cricket has often been associated with flair and gusto at the top of the order, Angelo Mathews’ side showed an aptitude for adapting to conditions.
Lahiru Thirimanne summed up both approaches, pulling a powerful six having used up 27 balls in compiling three.
That was to be a rare bright spot of his stay, which was ended soon after as James Anderson – whose eventual figures of 2-38 included a 250th format scalp – located the edge.
Kumar Sangakkara showed the value of having spent some time with Durham earlier this summer, immediately looking composed alongside Dilshan.
They prospered to the tune of a 96-run partnership, eschewing risk initially before boundaries began to complement their good running.
Dilshan looked particularly at ease in strike rotation, although a ‘Dilscoop’ off Ravi Bopara after he had reached 50 offered a reminder of his usual flair.
England hit back well, though; Sangakkara skied an attempted slog-sweep off James Tredwell to be caught, Mahela Jayawardene was run out after some good work by Gary Ballance and Dilshan was bowled by a good ‘un from Chris Jordan that nipped back.
But Ashan Priyanjan ensured Sri Lanka managed more than 250, showing some ingenuity and power in a fine 43.
While many of his colleagues needed to play out of their comfort zone to match the conditions, there were no such issues for Kulasekara.
A medium-pacer who nibbles the ball both ways, he is almost your archetypal English seamer.
Yet that familiarity did not help England’s batsmen, openers Michael Carberry – who had replaced Cook – and Ian Bell feathring behind before Ballance was pinned in front by on that nipped back.
Lasith Malinga struck in between those dismissals, castling Joe Root – who played backwards when he should have been forward.
In stark contrast to Kulasekara’s ‘Englishness’, Senanayake offers the kind of mystery spin that Sri Lanka have become synonymous with.
And it was that style which accounted for England’s middle over, the tweaker bowling Bopara and trapping Jordan lbw either side of Mathews having Jos Buttler caught at mid-off via a leading edge.
Morgan responded with some positive strokes, a powerful six over long-off the highlight, in making 40 but Senanayake continued to have his way as Sri Lanka levelled the series.
By Matthew Sherry
(Courtesy: England and Wales Cricket Board)