England finally won their first match of the Australian summer with a 43–run victory over Sri Lanka in the one–day VB Series in Brisbane today.
Alec Stewart hit a superb 64 to help England reach a commanding 292 before they were all out off the final ball of their innings.
Youngster James Anderson gave England a perfect start by claiming the wicket of Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya while Steve Harmison removed Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara in quick succession to set up a long–awaited victory.
Having failed to win any of the previous 13 matches since their arrival on 18 October, the 61–day wait was ended with a highly–proficient display in stark contrast to their sub–standard performances against the world champions in the opening two matches.
They batted consistently well, a total which should have been higher had they not suffered a late collapse, and then restricted Sri Lanka's powerful batting line–up to 249 for six despite a determined 72 from Mahela Jayawardene.
But it was the form of debutant Harmison and Lancashire seamer Anderson, making only his second appearance at this level, which turned the match firmly in England's direction.
Durham fast bowler Harmison made an immediate impact, removing Atapattu and Sangakkara, inside his first four overs after being brought into the side as one of three changes to the line–up that slipped to an 89–runs defeat against Australia in Melbourne on Sunday.
Harmison struck with his third delivery in one–day international cricket with Sangakkara cutting to Paul Collingwood at point, who claimed a brilliant catch diving low to his right.
He claimed his second victim three overs later when Atapattu, who had hit a disciplined 38 from 58 balls, played at a short delivery and edged straight to Nick Knight at slip and finished with two for 39.
Harmison's impressive spell built on an equally eye–catching new ball burst from Anderson, who claimed one for 25 in his seven overs to claim his second high–profile name having dismissed Adam Gilchrist on his debut at the MCG and returned to the attack to also dismiss Jehan Mubarak and claim two for 48 in his 10 overs.
The tourists took only five overs to make the breakthrough with Andrew Caddick, recalled after missing out on Sunday's 89–runs defeat at the MCG, tempting opener Romesh Kaluwitharana into getting a top edge to an attempted pull and wicketkeeper Stewart was able to make the ground and take the catch.
Anderson, who began his new ball spell with a maiden, struck again three overs later when Jayasuriya drove a full length delivery which was taken by delighted captain Nasser Hussain at mid off.
England's huge total could have been even bigger had they not suffered a late collapse to lose five wickets for 14 runs in the last four overs which prevented them maintaining their momentum.
They lost Marcus Trescothick and Ronnie Irani inside the first eight overs after Hussain won the toss and decided to bat, both caught cutting at point, but the England captain rebuilt the innings with an 82–run partnership alongside Paul Collingwood.
Once Collingwood fell for a determined 37, Hussain teamed up with Stewart in a 72–run stand until cramp got the better of him and, using the Durham all–rounder as his runner, he was run out just two balls later for a superb 79 off 106 balls.
Stewart picked up Hussain's mantle to hit a quickfire 64 from only 60 deliveries, but once he was out bowled by Jayasuriya, England collapsed and lost three wickets in four balls to add a disappointing 14 in the final four overs.
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