Conditions Suit Misfiring England
England (213-4 from 45 overs) Beat Sri Lanka (212 all out) by 6 wickets
A fatigued England, partly from the busiest summer of cricket yet and partly from an Ashes hangover appeared to coast to victory against the highly rated Sri Lanka outfit. A match that failed to produce spectacular cricket and minimal individual brilliance was played upon on a wicket that favoured the English pace attack. Yet England’s display was at times wayward and lethargic, most tellingly in the field.
Andrew Strauss won an important toss, electing to bowl on a strip offering considerable assistance to quicker bowlers. On a different wicket to that taken advantage by the impressive Pakistani steamers against the West Indies, similar bounce, carry and movement were present suiting England’s opening bowlers. Anderson and Onions devastated the Sri Lankan top order, reducing the opposition to 17-4. Encouraged by movement off the pitch and complimentary overhead conditions, Strauss offered up to three slips at times as Jayasuriya edged behind and Dilshan drove to a sharp Eoin Morgan at point.
Sri Lanka were saved partly by the innings by Kandambi (53) and Angelo Matthews (52) who was run out, attempting an ill-judged second run, to be partly obstructed, unintentionally by the bowler Onions in his follow through. Onions did not appear to block the run of Matthews, however, the batsmen appealed against unfair play, seemingly an after thought for a suicidal run. In what was a generous and sporting gesture of goodwill and sportsmanship, Andrew Strauss waved Matthews back to the crease, after consulting the on field umpires. Yet Matthews failed to capitalise on his both Strauss’ good nature and his own good fortune, falling to Wright in the next over.
Sri Lanka’s total was boosted by many extras including 21 wide balls and a complete lack of application by England’s supporting bowlers. Pitching the ball far too short, failing to give the ball the chance to swing and move off the pitch, Stuart Broad was England’s worst offender, his three wickets flattering, what was a poor display, giving the Sri Lankans renewed hope of defending a decent score.
Much was spoken before the game of the threat of ‘spin twins’ Muralitharan and Mendis, yet the wicket failed to offer much assistance to the pair who looked so deadly against the South Africans earlier in the tournament. Denly was out LBW early to a good ball, pitched up Kulasekara, whilst the same bowler struck again to dismiss England’s form batsmen, Strauss, with Kadambi clinging on to a fiercely-hit pull at midwicket.
Failing to fire in the recent elongated series against Australia, England’s middle order answered calls by Anderson to ‘get the bulk of the runs’, with diligent and circumspect batting. Shah (44) left most outside his off stump and accumulated with soft hands to prevent edges, whilst Collingwood maintained a high scoring rate, hitting 46 from 51 balls. At times Collingwood appeared to take hold of the situation, and impose himself on the game and the Sri Lankan bowlers. Targeting Kulasekara, smashing 6, 4, 4 in consecutive balls and later Malinga, dispatching two sixes. Eoin Morgan’s (63*) guided England home with 5 overs to spare, punishing bad balls with control, power and with authority. The innings of Morgan and Collingwood typified the England run chase, at times cautious, at others commanding, but paced, meticulous and conscientious to the conditions and threat of the bowling attack.
Whilst England were far from top form in the field, the favourable toss and bowing conditions damaged Sri Lanka’s chance of an intimidating total. The damage by England’s opening bowlers pegged back the most devastating of batsmen in Dulshan and Jayasuriya. Sri Lanka promise to be a formidable opponent later in the tournament with lengthy batting, bowling options and committed fielding, whilst England have a great deal to work on. England’s chances of progressing in the tournament fall largely in the hands of the conditions, which today, both underfoot and overhead, assisted a misfiring team.
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