Taylor, Morgan the bright sparks in England’s 265 as team falls to six-wicket loss
Sangakkara’s 86 took him past 1000 ODI runs for the fourth successive calendar year – he’s the third after Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli to achieve the feat – and put him alongside Angelo Mathews and Kohli in that list for 2014. His knock and the partnership fronted Sri Lanka’s chase of 266, which was achieved with six wickets in hand and two balls to spare.
The win gave Sri Lanka a series lead of 3-1.
That Sri Lanka was left to chase only so much, despite half-centuries from James Taylor and Eoin Morgan, England’s stand-in captain after Alastair Cook was handed a one-match suspension for slow over-rate, was because of the spinners. Rangana Herath, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Ajantha Mendis picked up three scalps each, as England, who had elected to bat, lost its last seven wickets for 95 runs in just 15.2 overs.
Sangakkara took guard in the sixth over after Dilshan was dismissed, caught by a running Morgan outside the 30-yard circle on the off side in a failed attempt to pull a wide delivery from Chris Woakes. Soon, Kusal Perera was deceived by Moeen Ali’s curve and was caught at first slip.
Sri Lanka needed another 197 runs when Jayawardene joined Sangakkara, who had already found his timing by then. Jayawardene, not one to fall behind, opened his account with a sweep to the fence off Ali. The pair rotated the strike with ease and found the odd boundary. Even though there was not much to separate the sides at the halfway stage of Sri Lanka’s innings, the home side’s awareness of the conditions and its batting depth kept it ahead.
The momentum of the game shifted well and truly in Sri Lanka’s favour in the 27th over when the two milked 13 runs out of an ordinary Ben Stokes over. In the next over off Joe Root, Sangakkara played a trademark cover-drive to the fence to bring up his fifty.
Then, Jayawardene, who became the third batsman after Vivian Richards and Ricky Ponting to score more than 1500 ODI runs against England, dragged a Chris Jordan delivery onto his stumps. His friend’s exit, however, was not going to stop Sangakkara. In company of Angelo Mathews, he continued to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Their partnership took Sri Lanka 49 runs closer to the target before Sangakkara cut a short and wide delivery from Jordan, one he could have dispatched anywhere in the ground, straight into the hands of the fielder at sweeper cover.
With 52 runs needed off 53 balls, Mathews and Thirimanne knocked off the runs without any fuss to register the highest-ever chase at the venue in a day game.
England has only itself to blame for the defeat. While the bowlers bowled as many as 12 wides, the batsmen floundered after Taylor provided them a strong foundation.
Only Michael Bevan and Cheteshwar Pujara average more with the bat than Taylor in List A cricket, yet he had played only two ODIs before this game since making his debut against Ireland in August 2011.
Coming in as a replacement for Cook, he wasted no time in pushing his case for a place in the 2015 World Cup squad. England’s batting in coloured-cloth cricket in the recent past has been below average, and Taylor’s emergence could only augur well for them.
Taylor’s 90 was well paced, and it came after England had lost Alex Hales and Ali within the eighth over. Taylor found an able ally in Root, with whom he put on 93 runs – England’s highest partnership for the series – and put the innings back on track.
The way Taylor came down the track to collect his boundaries was the highlight of his innings, and he seemed to relish the opportunity to fight against the odds in unfamiliar conditions and stake a permanent claim in the XI. However, once he lost Root – bowled by Herath – and was affected by cramps, he lost his focus. He was dismissed off the first ball of the batting powerplay against the run of play and it provided just the opening the Sri Lankan spinners had been patiently waiting for.
Morgan, who watched five wickets fall in a flurry from the other end, batted with intelligence for his 62 before being the last man out off the final delivery of the innings.
As the England wickets fell, the decibel level of a holiday crowd rose, and rose some more when Mathews brought up his half-century with the winning boundary.
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