Sri Lanka canter to 2-0 series lead


England’s 185 had felt inadequate at midway, despite a slow, tacky pitch, and a match reduced by morning drizzle to 45 overs. Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan succumbed with only 37 on the board, but Sangakkara and Jayawardene absorbed the pressure, such as it was, proceeding with a quietude which took little note of the blaring horns around them.

It was the 15th time that Sri Lanka’s old masters had assembled a century stand in a one-day international. It feels like more. Sangakkara was not really in touch, and Chris Woakes dropped a return chance when he was 36, but Jayawardene played felicitously to set his side at ease. Only with victory feeling inevitable did they allow themselves liberties, the last 10 overs bringing 75.

The World Cup will not be fought out on surfaces such as these. England are unlikely to face the trial by spin that befell them at the Premadasa Stadium in Australia or New Zealand. But only infants can find wonder in hearing a bedtime story for the umpteenth time; adults tend to tire of awakening to the same hoary old tale. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The story will again touch, in England at least, on Alastair Cook, and his continued presence as England’s one-day captain and one of the batsmen charged with setting the tone at the top of the order. He was not the only batsman to struggle, far from it, but his 22 in 37 balls – a stifled innings which ended when he swept Dilshan to deep square – is as much under discussion in Colombo as it has been on the county grounds of England.

Cook’s qualities are rightly praised, but dynamism is not one of them, neither as a batsman or a captain. He attacks charily, as if more by instruction than instinct. A long sequence of one-day cricket ahead of the World Cup has convinced England he has an opportunity to expand his range. But, two games into this seven-match series, there are no signs yet and there is a tipping point at which an admirably strong will becomes wilful stubbornness.

It was left to Ravi Bopara, who in his dreamiest hours fantasises about life as an England No 3, to clear up the batting mess from No. 6 with the doleful air of a dustman on the same old bin run. He takes on the role dependably, committing himself to getting the job done in the allocated time, but taught by experience that far too often the glory belongs to others.

Bopara’s bin run brought him his second successive half-century, but each time his innings had ended with him dropping to his knees in dejection. In the first match on Wednesday, he was last out, the game lost. Back for a Saturday shift, he made 51 from 69 balls before hauling Ajantha Mendis low to midwicket, a demanding task which ended 22 deliveries before its allotted time.

If Cook’s mood must be low, Angelo Mathews has now mentally put the torments of the India tour behind him. Pretty much everything he tried came off, including his own catch on the ring to dismiss Bopara. He taunted England with spin and finished them off with the seam. Job done.

There were deeper matters to attend to before the game began. Flags flew at half mast in memory of the Australian batsman Phillip Hughes. Sri Lanka Cricket opened a condolences book, signed by both sides. A silence was impeccably observed. A game united in its grief, knowing the risks but also aware of the rarity of such a tragedy, and barely able to comprehend.

From the outset, England’s innings stalled as Mathews bowled himself and a trio of spinners for the first 19 overs. Dilshan, who took the new ball, supported by close-set fields, made Cook look static and controlled affairs so successfully that he delivered without interruption a return of 2 for 32 in nine overs. Dilshan’s fielding has also been exemplary in both games: a 38-year-old still full of vim in a changing Sri Lanka landscape.

This time Moeen Ali’s zest could not provide cover. He departed against the last ball of Dilshan’s first over, advancing down the pitch, but dragging on an unruly leg-side shot.

Other England dismissals had an air of repetition: Ian Bell, playing his 150th match and who must provide impetus in the top four as currently constituted, tried to hit down the ground and failed; Eoin Morgan, stretching for a wide one, played too early on the slow surface and plonked one to extra cover, how own form as absent as that of his captain; Jos Buttler, for the second successive match, was beaten by a breakback from Dhammika Prasad, the seventh bowler used; Woakes was stumped by a mile, again just as he had been in the previous match. England’s tail – which in the warm-up match began at 11, but which now begins at nine – did not overstay its welcome.

Joe Root persevered, reaching 42, his laborious resistance alleviated by a single boundary, and even he required a Sri Lankan review to fall in his favour on 16, umpire Steve Davis’ rejection of Dilshan’s lbw appeal upheld by the narrowest of margins as Root came across his stumps to work down the leg side. That approach proved his downfall, Mathews winning the lbw decision.

The rest was left to Bopara. He should bat in blue overalls. Unlike Sangakkara and Jayawardene, he has rarely had the luxury of being able to knock off a simple target, servants with parasols at the ready, as if in his sleep.


AN Cook c MDKJ Perera b Dilshan             22

MM Ali b Dilshan              2

IR Bell c NLTC Perera b Herath    11

JE Root lbw b Mathews 42

EJG Morgan c Thirimanne b NLTC Perera               17

RS Bopara c Mathews b BAW Mendis     51

JC Buttler b Prasad          7

CR Woakes st †Sangakkara b BAW Mendis           15

JC Tredwell not out         9

ST Finn b BAW Mendis   0

HF Gurney b Prasad        1

Extras (lb 3, w 3, nb 2)    8

Total (all out; 43 overs)  185

Fall of wickets 1-7 (Ali, 1.6 ov), 2-36 (Bell, 8.1 ov), 3-37 (Cook, 9.2 ov), 4-75 (Morgan, 19.3 ov), 5-117 (Root, 27.1 ov), 6-132 (Buttler, 31.4 ov), 7-173 (Woakes, 39.5 ov), 8-180 (Bopara, 41.2 ov), 9-180 (Finn, 41.4 ov), 10-185 (Gurney, 42.6 ov)


AD Mathews 6-0-23-1, TM Dilshan 9-0-32-2, HMRKB Herath 9-0-40-1, BAW Mendis 7-1-33-3, NLTC Perera 3-0-16-1, BMAJ Mendis 5-0-22-0, KTGD Prasad 4-0-16-2

Sri Lanka

TM Dilshan c Woakes b Ali            26

MDKJ Perera c Bopara b Finn      9

KC Sangakkara not out   67

DPMD Jayawardene not out       77

Extras (lb 3, w 4)               7

Total (2 wickets; 34.2 overs)        186

Did not batAD Mathews*, NLTC Perera, HDRL Thirimanne, BMAJ Mendis, KTGD Prasad, HMRKB Herath, BAW Mendis

Fall of wickets 1-27 (MDKJ Perera, 4.1 ov), 2-37 (Dilshan, 7.4 ov)


ST Finn 6-1-35-1, CR Woakes 5-0-23-0, MM Ali 7-0-38-1, HF Gurney 5.2-0-32-0, JC Tredwell 9-0-47-0, RS Bopara 2-0-8-0


Toss – England, who chose to bat

Series – Sri Lanka led the 7-match series 2-0

Player of the match – DPMD Jayawardene (Sri Lanka)

Umpires – SJ Davis (Australia) and RR Wimalasiri

TV umpire – SD Fry (Australia)

Match referee – DC Boon (Australia)

Reserve umpire – RSA Palliyaguruge