The Little Silver Hat is coming home. England ensured last night that they will need an extra seat for the series trophy on their return flight after securing their third consecutive one-day victory over Sri Lanka.
In the context of human sporting endeavour the Bradford & Bingley Cup may not mean much but, if it is never contested again, it should be remembered for two reasons. First, by defeating the World Cup finalists to win it, England put up a convincing impression of a limited-overs side who know what they are about and where they are going.
Secondly, the silver trophy itself is a singular looking trinket, made in silver and featuring a handsome bowler hat that is the logo of the sponsors. It seems almost a pity that when it is paraded round the Premadasa Stadium on Saturday it may never be seen in public again.
England won the fourth match in the series as they had won the previous two, on the back of intelligent seam bowling. If Sri Lanka again batted ineptly on the type of pitch which would be their specialist subject on Mastermind, they were also penned in.
From 20 for 3 – the third match in a row in which they had lost three batsmen for fewer than 40 – there was in truth nowhere for them to go. All they could do was consolidate and hope things went their way. They did not.
England's batsmen were always in control, despite an unseemly stagger as victory hove into view. In circumstances that could have been tailored for him Alastair Cook eked out 80 from 123 balls. Kevin Pietersen's unbeaten half-century, his first of the series, saw the team home with more than three overs left.
There is a long, long way to go before England reach the mountain top where the more glittering prizes lie, but this is a considerable stride towards base camp. It is England's second series win in two months and neither was expected.
By beating India in a rip-roaring series at home they gave themselves the self-belief to suppose that they could also defeat Sri Lanka away. Nobody else thought so, however, and when they were overwhelmed in the first match their seventh place in the world rankings again began to look a tad flattering.
But they readjusted quickly, did what men have to do and, thanks to intelligent bowling and patient, if not inspirational batting, overturned the odds.
If it has been a team effort, Ryan Sidebottom was at the head of it yesterday, as he has been thus far. He took 3 for 27 from 10 overs yesterday to take his tally to 10 for 127 in the series. Only in the first match did he go remotely round the park but like the rest he learned immediately.
After he and James Anderson, who was taking his first wickets of the series, made the early inroads, Kumar Sangakkara and Chamara Silva attempted to rebuild. Their partnership of 126 from 176 balls was the highest of the series but they needed to remain until the end of the innings to turn the match.
Stuart Broad, the third seamer, dismissed them both and a total of 211 was some 20 runs short. England paced it almost perfectly. But the style hardly mattered.
Sri Lanka won toss
W U Tharanga c Shah b Sidebottom 4
S T Jayasuriya c Pietersen b Anderson 3
†K C Sangakkara c Bopara b Broad 69
*D P M Jayawardene c Broad b Anderson 0
L P C Silva c Bopara b Broad 67
K S Lokuarachchi lbw b Collingwood 9
T M Dilshan b Anderson 17
J Mubarak b Sidebottom 20
W P U Vaas c Pietersen b Sidebottom 2
C R D Fernando not out 3
S L Malinga not out 3
Extras (lb3 w11) 14
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 211
Fall: 1-7 2-16 3-20 4-146 5-158 6-166 7-190 8-195 9-206.
Bowling: Anderson 10-1-33-3 (5w); Sidebottom 10-2-27-3 (3w); Broad 10-0-54-2 (1w); Collingwood 6-0-28-1; Swann 10-0-48-0 (2w); Bopara 4-0-18-0.
A N Cook b Fernando 80
†P Mustard c and b Malinga 19
I R Bell c Malinga b Lokuarachchi 25
K P Pietersen not out 63
*P D Collingwood lbw b Fernando 0
O A Shah b Malinga 9
R S Bopara not out 1
Extras (lb4 w11) 15
Total (for 5, 46.5 overs) 212
Fall: 1-30 2-84 3-194 4-194 5-208
Did not bat: G P Swann, S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom, J M Anderson.
Bowling: Vaas 9-2-39-0 9 (2w); Malinga 9-1-39-2 (2w); Fernando 10-1-38-2 (3w); Lokuarachchi 10-0-57-1; Jayasuriya 4.5-0-18-0; Dilshan 4-0-17-0.
England win by five wickets and lead five-match series 3-1
Umpires: R E Koertzen (SA) and T H Wijewardene (S Lanka).Reuse content