Cook and England back in swing thanks to pitch-perfect conditions

Sri Lanka 174 England 171-0 (England win by 10 wickets, D/L)
  • @stephenbrenkley

If in doubt, prepare a green top. England were actually in no doubt at all. Behind in the one-day series with two matches to play, running out of ideas to contain the opposition, they rigged the pitch yesterday, won the match and have all to play for in the final tie at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Alastair Cook, a captain denigrated before he had tossed his first coin, scored 95 not out in 75 balls to complement his hundred at Lord's last Sunday. He and Craig Kieswetter, who made an unbeaten 72 in 68 balls, shared a partnership of 171, which engineered a thumping 10-wicket victory against Sri Lanka.

Cook is in the form of several lives. He is providing an effective, nay a devastating riposte to the critics who think he does not have the right stuff to play this form of the game. And they said the wheel could not be reinvented. But if England somehow manage to win this series 3-2 after twice being outplayed, there will still be plenty of ground to make up.

To clinch it, they may well crave another surface helpful to the moving ball which effectively decided the match, easier to contrive in this country than almost anywhere else in the world. Not that a series of incriminating emails detailing the plot is ever likely to be found, or that specific instructions were delivered to Nottingham via carrier pigeon to preclude that possibility. But it was extremely convenient for the home side.

It would be handy for Cook, of course, to have a victory on his escutcheon at the first time of asking, but somewhere down the line his bowlers will have to learn how to take wickets on unconducive pitches. His batsmen must master the skill of accumulating regularly the necessary weight of runs.

Those caveats apart, it was a thoroughly convincing victory.

Having failed to shackle Sri Lanka's batsmen on the flat pitches of Headingley and Lord's, this was much more to the liking of England's pace quartet. By the ninth over the tourists' innings was in tatters at 20 for 4, toppled by a voracious Jimmy Anderson and Tim Bresnan, and the result all but a foregone conclusion.

There was a partial recovery marshalled by Kumar Sangakkara, fresh from his triumph in delivering a momentous Spirit of Cricket Lecture at Lord's that has had immediate repercussions in the government at home. But such depths are hard to escape completely and, despite his 75 from 107 balls, Sri Lanka were all out for 174 with 6.2 overs unused.

Cook was ruthless in the chase. He hit two of his 16 fours in the opening over, starting with a glorious straight drive, and continued virtually at that lick. England were delayed but not arrested by rain which had prevented a prompt start and took two overs from their innings.

The tourists may have bowled to Cook's strengths but he was imperious enough to make them bowl where he wanted. He reached 50 from 37 balls, the hundred partnership with Craig Kieswetter for the first wicket came up in 82 and England had won before the 24th over was done, still with 24 at their disposal under the Duckworth/Lewis regulations.

How different this was from what had preceded it in the fourth of four one-sided matches. With the fifth ball of the innings after Cook won the toss, looked at the pitch and did what he must have considered to be his duty, Anderson removed Tillakaratne Dilshan with a beauty which the batsman did well to touch through to the keeper.

Anderson also removed, for a duck, Dinesh Chandimal, who had scored a mildly controversial century at Lord's on Sunday, in that runs were turned down to ensure he posted it. Cook had averred that the cricketing gods might have been averse to the policy. The cricketing gods might have been reminding Chandimal when umpire Billy Bowden raised his finger to give the leg before decision.

Next to fall to Anderson was Thilina Kandamby, edging to second slip a ball he might have left alone – but the moving ball always inspires doubts in batsmen. The key wicket in the initial procession was the second. It fell to Bresnan, who persuaded Mahela Jayawardene, pleasing gods of all varieties with his recent batting, to edge one to first slip, where Jonathan Trott made no mistake.

It was left to Sangakkara to repair what damage he could. He embarked on a watchful procedure, though still being diligent in keeping the board ticking along and the late middle order offered him important company. Sangakkara has been under fire at home since his address on Monday.

In it, he emphasised his pride in being a Sri Lankan but, in going through the history of the country's cricket, he alluded to corruption in the running of the game. He said: "Accountability and transparency in administration and credibility of conduct were lost in a mad power struggle that would leave Sri Lankan cricket with no consistent and clear administration." The country's sports minister has asked for a transcript of the speech and said that Sangakkara had no right to talk about cricket administration.

If Sangakkara was concerned about this turn of events his stoic batting showed no sign of it. Encouraging the others to play round him, which Angelo Mathews did with particular gusto (making further mockery of his one from 21 balls while Chandimal reached his hundred at Lord's), he guided the side to a reasonable total.

After Mathews fell for 39, victim of a brilliant one-handed, or actually two-fingered return catch by Bresnan in his follow through after a leading edge, the innings was destined to end quickly. One novelty of the innings was that there were two wickets for Stuart Broad, his first of the series. Jade Dernbach finished off the tourists with three wickets in 10 balls, bringing down Sangakkara at the last.

There was the prospect that Cook might reach his second successive one-day century but none at all of it being contrived after Chandimal's misguided effort on Sunday. It looked eminently possible until Kieswetter accelerated towards the end and brought the scores level with his third six.

Trent Bridge scoreboard

Fourth one-day international: England beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets (D/L Method); England won toss

Sri Lanka

D P M D Jayawardene c Trott b Bresnan 9/0/1/12/13

*T M Dilshan c Kieswetter b Anderson 0/0/0/4/1

L D Chandimal lbw b Anderson 0/0/0/5/15

†K C Sangakkara c Morgan b Dernbach 75/0/7/107/173

S H T Kandamby c Swann b Anderson 6/0/1/15/13

S Randiv c Kieswetter b Broad 18/0/4/27/29

A D Mathews c & b Bresnan 39/2/1/49/60

B M A J Mendis c Kieswetter b Broad 11/0/1/29/30

K M D N Kulasekara lbw b Dernbach 5/0/1/7/7

S L Malinga b Dernbach 0/0/0/4/1

R A S Lakmal not out 1/0/0/3/7

Extras (lb5 w5) 10

Total (43.4 overs) 174

Fall 1-1, 2-10, 3-11, 4-20, 5-57, 6-129, 7-155, 8-163, 9-163.

Bowling J M Anderson 8-1-24-3, T T Bresnan 9-0-39-2, S C J Broad 8-0-37-2, J W Dernbach 8.4-1-38-3, G P Swann 10-2-31-0.


*A N Cook not out 95/0/16/75/133

†C Kieswetter not out 72/3/8/68/133

Extras (w4) 4

Total (for 0, 23.5 overs) 171

Did not bat I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, E J G Morgan, I R Bell, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, J W Dernbach.

Bowling K M D N Kulasekara 3.5-0-36-0, S L Malinga 5-0-28-0, R A S Lakmal 2-0-12-0, A D Mathews 3-0-22-0, S Randiv 5-0-32-0, T M Dilshan 3-0-21-0, B M A J Mendis 2-0-20-0.

Umpires B F Bowden (NZ) and R K Illingworth.

Score in five-match series stands 2-2.