Jayawardene career-best levels series for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 309-5 beat England 240 by 69 runs
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The Independent Online

Mahela Jayawardene's career-best 144 proved too much for England as Sri Lanka levelled the NatWest Series with ease at Headingley today.

England therefore needed to stage their highest successful one-day international run chase, but instead fell to a tame 69-run defeat.

After their stumbling World Cup campaign also ended in a resounding quarter-final defeat against these same opponents two months ago, there are several questions England once more need to answer in this format under the nascent captaincy of Alastair Cook.

His and Jonathan Trott's ability to operate at a successful 50-over tempo from numbers one and three remains in doubt.

After Craig Kieswetter had hooked Suranga Lakmal (three for 43) down to a tumbling long-leg to end an opening stand of 53, Cook hinted he can do the job required on his way to a near run-a-ball 48.

But he then holed out at deep extra-cover off Suraj Randiv (three for 43), and Trott still had a case to answer when a Lakmal yorker cut him off for 39 - from 54 balls.

Kevin Pietersen was already gone, very well-caught by a diving Lasith Malinga on the long-on boundary off leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis.

The match therefore appeared to hinge on Eoin Morgan (52) and Ian Bell's ability to get England close enough for the tailend finishers to help complete a tough task.

Morgan's 37-ball 50 contained just three fours as well as two slog-swept sixes.

He had not done anywhere near enough, though, when he advanced and missed a Randiv off-break to be stumped.

Tim Bresnan had been England's most expensive bowler and, on his return to his home ground, could never get going with the bat either before holing out in the leg-side deep off Randiv.

Stuart Broad over-balanced to be stumped off Mendis, meaning three wickets had fallen for five runs to herald a terminal decline which Bell was unable to arrest.

England's powerplay, delayed like Sri Lanka's until the 41st over but unlike the tourists' taken with seven wickets down, mustered only 26 runs as they were bowled out for 240.

Jayawardene and Sangakkara were the architects of Sri Lanka's winning total, after the tourists had gifted their first two wickets to England with faulty running.

Tillakaratne Dilshan and young number three Dinesh Chandimal both had only themselves to blame after calling for singles to mid-on.

England's accomplished fielding did the rest, leaving the onus on Jayawardene - promoted to open in place of retired veteran Sanath Jayasuriya - and Sangakkara to assess a par score and go about achieving it.

They did so expertly, erasing Sri Lanka's largely self-inflicted early troubles which began when Dilshan pushed for one off James Anderson and was short of his ground as Broad's accurate underarm throw broke the stumps.

It was a dodgy single from the outset but not as obviously so as the one Chandimal attempted six overs later.

He was yards out, despite a desperate dive, for a near mirror-image dismissal - Anderson this time doing the fielding off Broad, first-change for Bresnan at the Football Stand end.

Before then, England had missed their opportunity to shift Jayawardene cheaply, Graeme Swann unable to hold on to a sharp slip chance above his head from an edge at some Bresnan width.

Jayawardene had made just seven out of 16 for one at that stage.

But, blameless in both run-outs, he kept risk to a minimum as he reprised his accustomed role as Sri Lanka's lynchpin.

Rewarded with a 15th ODI century from 118 balls, he pushed on past his previous best 128 - benefiting from only one extra piece of luck, on 119, when Cook dropped a tough chance at cover off Jade Dernbach.

Sangakkara was easily stumped, up the wicket but nowhere near the pitch of one which Swann got to spin sharply, to end an important 85-ball contribution.

Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews then cashed in on a commanding position by bagging 59 in the batting powerplay.

Although the opener was eventually also stumped off Swann, he had ensured England would have to bat especially well to prevail.

Cook's decision to bowl first on what looked and turned out to be a very good batting surface could be read as a statement of his confidence that he and his fellow home batsmen could chase whatever they were set.

If so it was significantly misplaced.

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