England humbled Sri Lanka by seven wickets in third ODI and take 2-0 series leadOctober 17, 2018
It was 11.33pm local time when Ben Stokes crashed the left-arm spin of Amila Aponso down the ground for an almighty six, the shot sealing a seven-wicket victory for England against Sri Lanka in which the tourists had scarcely looked troubled.
Even a near six-hour rain delay that cut this third one-day international into a 21-overs-per-side match – and thus nearer to a Twenty20 – could not reduce the gulf between the two teams at present; Eoin Morgan’s No 1-ranked side, who had knocked off a target of 151 with 15 balls to spare, now sit 2-0 up in this monsoon-afflicted series with two matches to play.
While Stokes added power at the end with an unbeaten 35 during which he cleared the rope twice, and Morgan, 58 not out from 49 balls, played a typically unflustered hand in the run chase, this one-sided victory in steamy Pallekele was set up by the earlier performance in the field that overcame the greasy conditions with minimal fuss.
Adil Rashid’s four for 36 from five overs derailed Sri Lanka’s efforts with the bat and led to the leg-spinner being rightly named man of the match. But perhaps the biggest boon for Morgan looking to the World Cup next summer was the performance from Tom Curran, making his first appearance for the one-day team since March.
Earning this chance through the injury to Liam Dawson, the Surrey right-armer claimed three for 17 from four overs, deployed his array of slower balls and cutters, and underlined England’s growing competition for places in the seam department. As Morgan once again stated at the presentation, some very welcome selection headaches are bubbling up before the tournament next year.
Things had started brightly for Sri Lanka once the rains had relented. After Morgan’s victory at the delayed toss, the stadium announcer implored the crowd to “make some noise” but it was Niroshan Dickwella who hyped up the locals early on with a flurry of uppercuts, scoops and punched drives that saw him blaze eight fours and put 55 runs on the scoreboard from the first five overs in partnership with Sadeera Samarawickrama.
This opening salvo inflicted some revenge on Chris Woakes and Olly Stone – the pair whose impressive new-ball burst had put England 1-0 up in Dambulla – but, after his dismissal for a frenetic 36 from 20 balls, Sri Lanka stuttered.
Curran was the man to apply the handbrake in the sixth over, as Dickwella went to thrash a length ball square only to spoon a catch to mid-off. Rashid then doubled the pain five balls later; a googly bowling Kusal Mendis through the gate for a golden duck to leave the hosts 59 for two.
Sri Lanka tried to rebuild but a stodgy 35 from Samarawickrama was not the order of the day. And in the 13th over Rashid struck twice in two balls to rip the guts out of the innings, with a full toss squirted to square leg by Samarawickrama before Thisara Perera recklessly picked out long-on from the very next delivery.
Thereafter Curran’s slower balls came to the fore, accounting for Dhananjaya de Silva on three and Dinesh Chandimal for a sluggish 34, while Rashid picked up his fourth when Dasun Shanaka, having made a counterattacking 21, misread a googly that crashed into his stumps.
With two run outs along the way, including Curran’s direct hit off the final ball of the innings, Sri Lanka’s resulting total looked lean. Aponso did remove Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root early in the chase – the former tamely picking out mid-off, the latter bowled by a slider – but England’s depth always offers insurance against such early wobbles.
This abundance of batsmen was not required. Jason Roy’s 41 from 26 balls broke the back of the target – he was eventually trapped lbw sweeping – before Morgan’s fourth half-century in five innings, amid an unbroken stand of 73 with the bristling Stokes, polished off the job.