Sri Lanka 164 England 164-8: Fearless Broad edges England to tense victory

The culture of Sri Lanka is filled with legend from long ago, of warrior kings and mystic elephant gods. None of it would stretch credulity as much as the idea that England should be 2-1 up in the autumn one-day series.

It had seemed a faintly absurd notion before the start of the tour and plain ridiculous when they lost the first match by a street.

However, last night in the clammy heat of the Rigiri Stadium they stuttered home by two wickets with seven balls left. Two-one to England it is.

Like all close, low scoring one-day matches it teetered this way and that and when it seemed as though they must win – having bowled out Sri Lanka – it seemed at several stages as though they must lose. At the last they were brought home by the refusal of their lower order either to panic or to budge.

Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad assembled the key stand of 40 for the eighth wicket when the match seemed to be beyond the tourists. And when Swann was out flailing boldly away Ryan Sidebottom played an equally nerveless part.

The closeness of the match made it outstanding but the quality of play was anything but. If it was largely turgid, the strip on which it was played virtually inert. It seemed tired of having cricket played on it – although two matches and 190 overs in five days did not seem like being overworked – and generally tired of life.

It could be suggested that pieces of grass like these should have other uses than having cricket played on them. The trouble is that once such surfaces have planted the seed of hesitancy in the batsmen's minds it grows like an evil triffid until they are almost totally disabled.

This is to take nothing away from the bowlers of either side who were straight and clever. Unfortunately, it is not what one-day cricket was made for. Batsmen, their minds scrambled, were reduced to prising runs out. Not a single one of them was fluent throughout the day, though Tillekeratne Dilshan showed what was possible.

He was on the verge of being dropped before the match – and some early intelligence did not have his name included in the Sri Lanka side – so his innings was a splendid example of cocking a snook. He scored 70 from 84 balls, coming to terms with the pace of the pitch and what he might be able to execute on it.

But Sri Lanka must have fancied they had wasted most of the advantage that winning the toss and batting grants. England, equally, must have recognised the extent of their achievement. Their bowlers all adapted well, none more than Swann.

It was not so much his flight, turn or guile – though all three were in evidence in 10 tight overs – but the combination of bravado and smartness he brings to his work. He might never have had this chance at international redemption but the way he has played in the past week suggests he spent seven years thinking that if it came he would be sure not to waste it.

England set about their reply in bristling style. It was clearly their intention to win the match and to do so well inside the distance. But the loss of early wickets on the way undermined all their fine ambition.

Alastair Cook, not for the first time and not for the last the way he plays, was caught at slip, induced into playing away from his body. Phil Mustard, having at last demonstrated some of the belligerence for which he earned selection, was unluckily bowled off his trouser leg.

Then went Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell and the game altered. England immediately felt that to win they had to so with caution. No risk was worth taking but this came to mean that no shot was worth playing.

For an eternity Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah, hero of the win in the second match, hung around, not doing much but perhaps doing just enough. If they stayed, England won. Then it all became too much for Shah as he charged Sanath Jayasuriya and was bowled.

Collingwood and then Ravi Bopara went and it seemed that was that. But then came Swann again, accompanied by Broad. They were fearless. Broad had been in this kind of position before, at Old Trafford when he helped to see England home against India. It was turgid and scintillating all at once.

Scoreboard

Sri Lanka won toss

Sri Lanka

W U Tharanga b Sidebottom......... 15

S T Jayasuriya c Swann b Sidebottom......... 11

†K C Sangakkara c Mustard b Broad......... 9

*D P M Jayawardene c Collingwood b Broad......... 2

L P C Silva c Mustard b Swann......... 11

T M Dilshan c Collingwood b Swann......... 70

J Mubarak c and b Swann......... 6

M F Maharoof c and b Swann......... 7

W P U Vaas run out......... 4

C R D Fernando c Collingwood b Sidebottom......... 11

S L Malinga not out......... 0

Extras (b1 lb11 w6)......... 18

Total (41.1 overs)......... 164

Fall: 1-22 2-33 3-37 4-42 5-85 6-93 7-106 8-118 9-164

Bowling: Anderson 8-0-35-0; Sidebottom 8.1-1-19-3; Broad 8-0-26-2; Collingwood 7-0-38-0; Swann 10-2-34-4.

England

A N Cook c Sangakkara b Vaas......... 0

†P Mustard b Maharoof......... 14

I R Bell c Dilshan b Maharoof......... 16

K P Pietersen lbw b Maharoof......... 8

*P D Collingwood lbw b Jayasuriya......... 32

O A Shah b Jayasuriya......... 19

R S Bopara lbw b Malinga......... 6

G P Swann b Fernando......... 25

S C J Broad not out......... 20

R J Sidebottom not out......... 7

Extras (b1 lb8 w6 nb2)......... 17

Total (for 8, 46.5 overs)......... 164

Fall: 1-5 2-23 3-44 4-47 5-94 6-101 7-107 8-147.

Did not bat: J M Anderson.

Bowling: Vaas 6-1-20-1; Maharoof 10-0-34-3; Fernando 10-1-31-1; Malinga 7.5-1-39-1; Dilshan 3-0-8-0; Jayasuriya 10-1-23-2.

England won by two wickets (Duckworth/Lewis method).

Man of the match: Swann.

Umpires: E A R de Silva (S Lanka) and R E Koertzen (SA).

First match: 1 Oct (Dambulla): Sri Lanka 269 for 7; England 150. Sri Lanka won by 119 runs.

Second match: 4 Oct (Dambulla): England 234 for 8; Sri Lanka 169. England won by 65 runs.

England lead five-match series 2-1.

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