This series is becoming daft. England responded to one of their direst performances and the opprobrium that it prompted by dismantling Sri Lanka on Wednesday night. It was bouncing back of an unexpectedly high order.
The tourists were bowled out for 67 in the third one-day international and lost by 10 wickets. In the second last Sunday, England were dismissed for 99 to be defeated by 157 runs. Remember the good old days when 50-over cricket was simply a feast of slogging and acquisition in which bowlers were treated as mere lickspittle labourers?
On a dank day with the ball moving appreciably off the seam, Sri Lanka were caught cold and unawares. At no point did they look remotely comfortable – had their captain Angelo Mathews really said the previous day that he expected the pitch to be sub-continental in nature? – and their last six batsmen went for nine runs in the space of 36 balls.
The innings lasted 24 overs and England needed only 12.1 more in under an hour to secure a win which puts them 2-1 up in the series. Presumably anything could still happen. Perhaps England’s bowlers, who had acquitted themselves adequately in Durham last Sunday in restricting Sri Lanka to 256 for 8, assumed that with their batsmen they could leave nothing at all to chance any longer.
Chris Jordan returned the best figures of 5 for 29, which were also the best of his career. It was the 26th occasion on which a bowler had taken five wickets for England in a one-day international innings.
Jordan, who clearly revels in the cut and thrust of international cricket, said: “We’re a team in transition. That sort of thing on Sunday is going to happen. I guess that really does send a message now.”
The England bowling coach David Saker referred to him as the ultimate professional. A Test summons clearly awaits.
The most compelling bowling was provided by Jimmy Anderson, who bowled seven overs for 10 runs at the start of the match in a small master class of how a fast bowler ought to go about his trade under cloudy skies.
With more rain around, England did brisk business with the bat. Alastair Cook, returning to the side after a slight groin injury, and Ian Bell shared an unbroken partnership of 73, their 12th above fifty for the first wicket in what is becoming a profitable alliance. Bell finished the match with a straight six into the pavilion.
Considering the amount of rain that had fallen in Manchester overnight and throughout much of the morning it was surprising that the match started only 20 minutes late. If it was a tribute to the quality of drainage on modern grounds and the recognition that the spectator comes first, it was still a miserable backdrop against which to play cricket. Low scoring limited overs internationals on grey days are not why the game was invented. But it was still an important way for this transitional England to respond after Sunday’s heavy defeat.
“The way we performed at The Oval to then perform like we did there [Durham] was really strange,” Cook said. “But the lads came out firing, desperate to prove a point today, and we did that.
“We didn’t quite get set straight away so the way we held our nerve and kept building pressure, and then when we got the chance Jords really hit the mark.”
Anderson had Sri Lanka’s batsmen in trouble as soon as he took the new ball after England won the toss. He struck in his second and third overs with balls that moved off the pitch. Tillakaratne Dilshan was beaten on the inside and Jos Buttler took an acrobatic catch to his left. Lahiru Thirimanne slashed at one moving away after advancing down the pitch.
Buttler completed a hat-trick of catches when Kumar Sangakkara drove errantly and immediately acknowledged his folly.
When Mahela Jayawardene played round James Tredwell’s first ball, which did not deviate a millimetre, Sri Lanka were finished.
The will among their batsmen, already dissipated, vanished completely. Whimsical shot selection and capricious running conspired against them and their uncertainty against the moving ball should have alarmed their coaches.
“We were disappointed with the whole batting line-up,” said Mathews. “No-one was hanging in there to tough it out. They bowled well and we didn’t have any answers.”
The way things are going Sri Lanka should win the fourth match at Lord’s on Saturday by a street.
Old Trafford Scoreboard
Sri Lanka 67
England win by 10 wkts