The ice-cream salesmen could finally turn up for work at Lord’s yesterday with a sense of purpose but the overdue appearance of some sun and summer’s warmth brought no comfort for England as a man with 99 on his back did for the home side.
Lasith Malinga knocked the top off England’s order and when Jos Buttler was threatening to win the series via one of the best one-day innings seen in an England shirt Malinga returned to deliver a final over that settled a breath-taking, hurly-burly of a match in Sri Lanka’s favour. England were licked again.
Malinga dismissed Alastair Cook and Ian Bell with the first ball he delivered to each of England’s main men and, with a stiff target posted thanks to Kumar Sangakkara’s tutorial in century-making, it left the home side facing a huge task. Buttler was brilliant, hitting the fastest 100 in an international game on this ground, but he had been left with too much to do and 12 off the final over delivered by Malinga was beyond even him, down from 81 from the last nine and 20 from the last two.
The series now stands at 2-2 and will be settled at Edgbaston on Tuesday. It has been a sequence of extremes and until yesterday it was one in which extremes of batting incompetence had been traded by the two sides. This was another extreme all together
It was Malinga who won the match – that final over went for four and contained two wickets – but in Buttler’s innings England can find no little solace. He played like a man possessed and the black and white entries in the scorebook, 74 balls, 11 fours and four sixes, do not do justice to the sheer brutal brilliance of what he achieved.
The 23-year-old from Taunton remains a novice at this level. This was his 32nd one-day international – Sangakkara has played over 550 internationals of all formats – but his was the coolest head in the ground. This was no desperate slogging. The shots he played have always been recognisable as cricket shots, from the successive sixes driven over cover off Nuwan Kulasekera, to the bullet through the covers in the penultimate over off the same bowler Malinga had to run him out to get rid of him.
“That was one a hell of an inning – he did not deserve to be on the losing side,” said Cook. “That was just one of the best innings I’ve ever seen.”
Buttler kept well too but once the one-day series is done he will return to county duty with Lancashire as even if Matt Prior is unfit, Buttler is not yet regarded as a Test wicketkeeper by the England management. Cook believes it is a role he will fulfil with distinction but not this season.
“He’s an incredible talent,” said Cook. “He has found his method in one-day cricket – he has yet to find that in four-day cricket. He needs more time to do that. I think he will become a very good Test player at some stage but if I’m being honest I don’t think he’s quite ready for that role.”
After Malinga did for England’s openers, Joe Root and Gary Ballance prevented the sort of collapse that has been this series’ signature with 84 from 12 balls but the run-rate was mounting. When Eoin Morgan fell England were 111 for five and it looked game over. But then came the Buttler show, with Ravi Bopara playing the butler’s role, fetching and carrying while his partner swung hard.
They added 133 in 100 balls as optimism surged around the stands. Bopara’s running left Sri Lanka ragged in the field. He hit only one boundary in his innings of 51 off 47 balls but kept Buttler on strike and the scoreboard moving but fell, Cook felt, an over too soon with England still 57 short of the target.
Sri Lanka’s innings promised plenty and delivered plenty but while Sangakkara was batting with typical poise, grace and well-disguised power en route to a 54th international century (his 19th one-day) there was a suggestion of something even better.
Mendis squirted the final ball of the innings for four to bring up the 300 after a frantic last 10 overs that encompassed 83 runs and six wickets. It was the minimum Sri Lanka should have achieved from 198 for one with Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan well set.
James Tredwell was the pick of England’s attack, hustling through his overs and finally ridding England of the troublesome Sangakkara with a cute piece of slow bowling. He saw the Sri Lankan coming and defeated his opponent’s advance by pushing the ball through flat and wide. Buttler did the rest.
Sangakkara had taken the required good look at the surface and once the recce was completed attacked. He overtook Dilshan to reach his half-century and hurried away from his partner, driving fluently on both sides of the wicket. His first 50 occupied 53 balls, his remaining 62 runs came off 51 balls. He remains a class act. Buttler, named man of the match, can become one.
England won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
T M Dilshan b Anderson 71 0 5 109 144
M D K J Perera c Jordan b Gurney 19 1 2 15 19
†K C Sangakkara st Buttler b Tredwell 112 0 14 104 157
D P M D Jayawardene
c Anderson b Gurney 7 0 1 14 18
*A D Mathews c Anderson b Jordan 30 0 4 30 49
H D R L Thirimanne
c Ballance b Anderson 16 0 2 14 25
S M A Priyanjan c Morgan b Gurney 9 0 0 7 19
K M D N Kulasekara b Jordan 0 0 0 2 1
S M S M Senanayake c Cook b Gurney 12 1 1 5 7
B A W Mendis not out 4 0 1 1 2
S L Malinga not out 0 0 0 0 0
Extras (lb3 w16 nb1) 20
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 300
Fall: 1-26, 2-198, 3-217, 4-233, 5-261, 6-279, 7-280, 8-292, 9-296.
Bowling: J M Anderson 10-1-60-2, H F Gurney 10-2-55-4, J E Root 6-0-40-0, C J Jordan 10-0-67-2, J C Tredwell 10-0-39-1, R S Bopara 4-0-36-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
*A N Cook lbw b Malinga 1 0 0 6 5
I R Bell c Jayawardene b Malinga 7 0 1 8 15
G S Ballance c Sangakkara b Mendis 42 0 2 69 87
J E Root c Mendis b Mathews 43 0 1 68 91
E J G Morgan
st Sangakkara b Senanayake 12 0 0 17 19
R S Bopara c Thirimanne b Mendis 51 0 1 47 80
†J C Buttler run out 121 4 11 74 103
C J Jordan c Dilshan b Malinga 5 0 0 10 23
J C Tredwell not out 1 0 0 2 4
J M Anderson not out 0 0 0 0 0
Extras (lb6 w3 nb1) 10
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 293
Fall: 1-3, 2-10, 3-94, 4-107, 5-111, 6-244, 7-290, 8-292.
Did Not Bat: H F Gurney.
Bowling: K M D N Kulasekara 10-0-81-0, S L Malinga 10-2-52-3, A D Mathews 7-1-30-1, S M S M Senanayake 10-0-49-1, B A W Mendis 10-0-60-2, S M A Priyanjan 3-0-15-0.
Umpires: M Erasmus and I J Gould.
Sri Lanka beat England by 7 runs.
The five-match series is level at 2-2.