Sri Lanka never had enough runs on the board but England were forced to bow down to Lasith Malinga who bowled his heart out and led his team to a historic win in Leeds on Friday. England had their own rebel in Stokes who fought till the end but ran out of allies as the hosts fell short by 20 runs.
Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid were amongst wickets as Sri Lanka could only manage 232 for 9 in their 50 overs. In response, Malinga dismantled England’s top order before Dhananjaya de Silva, Isuru Udana and Nuwan Pradeep cleaned up the tail, bundling England out for 212. Stokes played a gem of a knock and remained unbeaten on 82.
Despite not having enough runs on the board, Sri Lanka weren’t going down so easily. Lasith Malinga dismissed Jonny Bairstow for a golden duck only in the second delivery of the innings to give Sri Lanka a fantastic start. James Vince had a chance to make a statement but the right-hander was caught at second slip while playing a lazy drive.
He only managed 14 runs before becoming Malinga’s second victim. Malinga got good support from Nuwan Pradeep who too bowled with great control. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan however managed to weather the storm by adding 47 runs for the third wicket.
Morgan’s innings was cut short as Udana took a superb catch in his own bowling to get rid of England captain in the 19th over. Sri Lankan bowlers kept bowling those tidy overs and made life difficult for Root and Stokes. England were 91 for 3 at the end of 25 overs before Stokes finally decided to cut loose.
The left-hander tonked Jeevan Mendis for a couple of sixes to break the shackles and just when it looked like Stokes and Root were running away with the game Malinga returned to have Root caught down the leg side. The veteran paceman didn’t stop there and pinned Jos Buttler right in front of the stumps to leave England in a spot of bother.
All England needed was some sensible cricket and they got that from Stokes and Moeen Ali, but only for a while. The two managed to survive Malinga’s second spell and the moment Dhananjaya came to bowl, Moeen welcomes him with a six. Moeen however tried to repeat the same on the very next delivery and was brilliantly caught by Udana at long off.
Things quickly started to turn in Sri Lanka’s favour when Dhananjaya had Chris Woakes and Rashid caught behind in the same over, with England still needing 55 runs. Pressure started to build on England and Stokes as the required run rate soared over six.
It was Archer who couldn’t cope up with the pressure and ended up playing a needless heave that ended in Thisara Perera’s safe pair of hands. Stokes then decided to take the matter in his own hands and made his intentions clear by smoking Udana for consecutive sixes.
With 30 needed in 24 deliveries, Stokes slammed Pradeep for two boundaries but the paceman had Wood caught behind in the last ball of his over to lead Sri Lanka to one of their biggest wins in recent times.
With six points to their name, Sri Lanka are now back in the race for a spot in the semifinals. Meanwhile, England are still placed at No. 3 but their remaining three games are against Australia, India and New Zealand.
Earlier, Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne won the toss and opted to bat first on a good surface. But the skipper fell for one when he edged a delivery from fast bowler Archer that cut away to wicket-keeper Jos Buttler. And two balls later, without another run on the board, Kusal Perera slashed Woakes to third man where Moeen, in his 100th ODI, took an easy catch.
Avishka Fernando marked his first appearance of the World Cup with an impressive array of shots only to fall just shy of a fifty. The right-hander smashed 14 runs off one Archer over with a drive on the up followed by a hooked six and a cover-driven four.
Just when everything was starting to go smooth for Sri Lanka, Fernando gave his wicket away as he was caught at third man in the bowling of Wood. He hit six fours and two maximums in his 39-ball 49. Kusal Mendis was then joined by Mathews and the two started to repair the innings without taking any unnecessary risks.
The two added 71 runs but could never really get going. Rashid then got a twin strike, dismissing Kusal and Jeevan off consecutive balls and Sri Lanka found themselves tottering at 133 for 5 at the 30-over mark.
Mathews then got steady assistance from Dhananjaya de Silva which ensured that Sri Lanka crossed the 200-run mark. Archer and Wood however ran through the lower-order and never allowed any Sri Lankan batsman to dominate.
Mathews, who has struggled heavily in this tournament, was the only batsman to put up some fight but his contribution at the end turned out to be game-changing for Sri Lanka.