By Srian Obeyesekere
Sri Lanka hit top gear demolishing England in double quick time by 8 wickets with 146 balls to spare in the 25th world cup fixture on a clinical bowling and batting performance ignited by speedsters Lahiru Kumara who grabbed 3 for 35, veteran Angelo Mathews 2 for 14 and Kasun Rajitha 2 for 36 in routing the defending world cup champions for 156 off 33.2 overs with opening batsman Pathum Nissanka 77 off 83 balls and Sadeera Samarawickrama 65 off 54 speeding the former world champions to victory, sharing in an unfinished 137-run partnership off 122 balls at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday.
The emphatic victory in that final Nissanka-Samarawickrama assault with the opener smashing the winning six in a bonding in classical stroke-play brought back a limping Sri Lanka from the gloom in registering their second back-to-back victory earning 4 points to reviving their world cup hopes from the early despair of three straight defeats. The victory thrust began after England having opted to take first lease on winning the toss lost when old stager Angelo Mathews, operating second change, bled England with the score 45 in the third delivery of the seventh over of the innings and the third ball of his very first over having Dawid Malan caught behind by Kusal Mendis for 28. Indeed, the 35-year old Mathews, who bounced back on the big scene from the virtual wilderness as a surprise injury replacement call up for Matheesha Pathirana, sprung back into action from over two years hibernation to injecting new life into a downsized outfit when he followed up by running out Joe Root three overs later for 3 by collecting and throwing from point for Mendis to whip off the bails as England’s prize batsman was sent back by Jonny Bairstow attempting a quick single – England 57 for 2 after 9.4. Into the second delivery of the 14th over and 11 runs later England lost a third wicket that of Bairstow who was beginning to blossom for a run a ball 30 (3×4) induced by Kasun Rajitha to edging to Dhananjaya de Silva. England was soon reeling on 77 for 4 with Lahiru Kumara accounting for skipper Jos Butler caught behind for 8 off 6 after 14.5 overs. Kumara, who was bowling at his devastating best reduced England to 85 for 5 after 2.1 overs when he trapped Liam Livingstone leg before wicket for 1.
There was a semi-England revival when Moeen Ali joined Ben Stokes, England’s world cup hero of 2019 as the pair added 37 for the sixth wicket off 32 but not before Stokes survived a diving catch by Sadeera Samarawickrama off Kumara with England in the 80s. But it was not o prove costly for the Lankans as Mathews returned to dismiss Ali snapped up by Kusal Janith Perera for a run a ball 15. Stokes prospered through in virtual glimpses of his former self in his return from injury maiden appearance at the world cup but only thus far and no further as the day belonged to Sri Lanka with Lahiru Kumara getting rid of him holing out to substitute fielder Dushan Hemantha for 43 off 73 hitting 6 boundaries as Rajitha Dawid Malan for 28dismissed Chris Woakes for a duck caught by Samarawickrama and Mahees Theekshana had Mark Wood stumped for 5 before Mendis ran out Adil Rashid for 2 as England folded up for 156 by that remarkable decimation by the Lankans best manifested by 16.4 overs in the bag.
England 156 (33.2 Overs)
(Jonny Bairstow 30, Dawid Malan 28, Ben Stokes 43, Moeen Ali 15, David Willey n.o. 14, Lahiru Kumara 3/35, Angelo Mahews 2/14, Kasun Rajitha 2/36, Maheesh Theekshana 1/21)
Sri Lanka 160/2 (25.4 Overs) RR: 6.23
(Pathum Nissanka n.o. 77, Sadeer Samarawickrama n.o. 65, Kusal Mendis 11, David Willey 2/30)