England end Sri Lanka series in predictably limp fashion

No relief for Alistair Cook as Tilakaratne Dilshan orchestrates final heavy defeat

Kumar Sangakkara (right) and Mahela Jayawardena, after his last appearance in Sri Lanka, salute the Colombo crowd following Sri Lanka’s 87-run win over England which secured completed a 5-2 series victory

Kumar Sangakkara (right) and Mahela Jayawardena, after his last appearance in Sri Lanka, salute the Colombo crowd following Sri Lanka’s 87-run win over England which secured completed a 5-2 series victory

 

Perhaps some progress has been made by England after all. In the first match in Colombo Sri Lanka posted 317,for six. Three weeks later they could manage only 302 for six. But the result was the same. This time Sri Lanka prevailed at a canter by 87 runs and therefore took the series by 5-2. After three weeks dodging the showers and bowling at Kumar Sangakkara it will be a gloomy return journey for England’s tourists.

There was no relief for Alastair Cook. He scored 32 from 48 balls in a forlorn run chase. It was a macabre innings, compelling to watch, as he very publicly battled with his demons. Of course, Sri Lanka opened the bowling with their off-spinners – why England were not flexible enough to counter this ploy by sending out a right-hander to combat them was a source of exasperation.

There was a huge appeal for lbw first ball against Cook from Dilruwan Perera. It was given not out and the Sri Lankans chose not to review (is it worth it against the England captain in his current form?) In any case the orange “umpire’s review” was revealed on the replay. Then Cook edged his first ball from Tillakaratne Dilshan; Jayawardene at slip dived to his left but could not hold the catch.

The next ball, Moeen Ali’s first, was straight and he tried to cut it and was bowled, another ugly dismissal. Unless the wicket is a green top every nation in the World Cup will open the bowling with off-spinners if England retain this opening pair.

Cook then made everyone blink. After a cut for four he plonked his right leg down the track and slog-swept an off-break from Perera for six over midwicket. He then edged a fine delivery from Suranga Lakmal between wicketkeeper and first slip.

Perhaps, after all the anguish, this was the night for the metamorphosis.

No, it wasn’t. Cook then drove at Lakmal and this time Jayawardene, diving to his left, held a fine catch. Cook waited to see if the ball had carried, further indication that his judgment at the crease is currently out of kilter since the catch was obviously a good one.

In the meantime Alex Hales, not quite looking like the messiah, had driven a Dilshan off-break straight into the hands of long-on. Soon afterwards James Taylor gloved another hostile delivery from Lakmal to the keeper.

Eoin Morgan was no more fluent than his captain and he could not last as long. After early trials against Lakmal he was lbw to the irrepressible Dilshan. Some of England’s batsmen, perversely, must be grateful for Cook’s trials since they have deflected attention from their own shortcomings and on top of that list is Morgan.

As ever Joe Root was the exception. He is currently in superb form, serene at the crease and prepared to bide his time. But all he could achieve for England was the facade of respectability. However he compiled a graceful 80, except that he was hobbling during the later part of his innings.

When the much-publicised review takes place on Friday they will conclude that Root bats at four, but not much else is set in stone. England’s batting is callow and inconsistent, adjectives that can rarely be applied to the veterans of Sri Lanka, who fashioned another victory with their bats.

Mahela Jayawardene, in his last match in Sri Lanka, began as if he was going to produce a jewel as a farewell gift to adoring fans. He cracked his first ball from Chris Woakes to the cover boundary. There were four more silky boundaries and the possibility that he might tinker with the cricketing gods – as Kumar Sangakkara did in Kandy – came to mind. But then Jayawardene succumbed to an innocuous delivery from Harry Gurney, which ended up in the hands of Woakes at long leg.

Sangakkara failed miserably. He had only scored 33 when he hit an even worse delivery from Moeen Ali, a full toss, straight to midwicket. Sangakkara probably does not practise much against dreadful balls. Not that Moeen bowled many more of those; he was England’s most effective bowler, eliciting more turn than any of his fellow off-spinners.

The forgotten member of the old triumvirate, Dilshan, controlled the innings. This was his 300th match; he scored his 9,000th run and he hit his 18th ODI century – before opening the bowling and causing a bit of havoc. It was not Dilshan’s most explosive innings but it allowed Sri Lanka to make merry in the final overs with wickets in hand. Dinesh Chandimal hit 55 from 50 balls, Thisara Perera 54 from just 26.

The last 10 overs produced 93 runs but Sri Lanka did not need many of them to win all too easily. The final dismissal of the match was a mischievous collector’s item from the cricketing gods: Tredwell st Sangakkara b Jayawardene. Two of those three were applauded to the skies at the conclusion of the match.

(Guardian service)

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