Sri Lanka defied all the odds to hand England their second defeat in the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage – beating the host nation by 20 runs at a stunned Headingley ground.
Fast bowler Lasith Malinga (above) was the hero for the Sri Lankans, taking 4/43 from his ten superb overs, causing the English batsmen problems all game. Ben Stokes almost won the game for England, finishing 82 not out, but ran out of partners – final batsman Mark Wood unable to keep his wicket with the final ball of the 47th over, snicking Nuwan Pradeep’s delivery to wicket keeper Perera, who took an easy catch to confirm the win for what was a struggling Sri Lankan team.
Following on from England’s loss to Pakistan, they are now the only top four team to have lost more than one group match, and this very much opens the door for the teams below them still harbouring hopes of a semi final place. Indeed, considering England’s three remaining matches are against the other top four teams – with Australia next up before India and then, finally, New Zealand, England will know they can not afford another loss or their semi final place – which looked all but assured before the Sri Lanka game – will be in huge danger.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat, despite their knowledge of England’s excellent ability to hunt totals down. Their innings never truly got into any rhythm – and only some lusty blows in the final few overs from Angelo Matthews (above) took them to what seemed a modest total of 232/9, on what was a dull, slow pitch. Mathews would finish on 85 not out – but it took him 115 balls to make these runs – and his fifty was the joint slowest (with Afghanistan’s Shahidi) of the 2019 World Cup so far.
England, despite losing opener Jonny Bairstow to the magnificent Malinga with just the second ball of the reply, and James Vince following not much later, still looked to be cruising to a comfortable win with Joe Root at the crease. When captain Eoin Morgan fell to a spectacular catch off his own bowling by Udana, Root and Stokes proceeded to take England to 127/3 and almost within site of the paltry Sri Lankan total. But it was Malinga who got Root chasing a leg side delivery that was initially given not out caught behind….the Sri Lankans reviewed the call, with Root noticeably dropping his shoulders at the review. He knew he had got the feintest of edges, which the review showed, and off he trudged to the pavilion, despite another fine half century to his name.
There was still an air of inevitability about the result though, but the Sri Lankans, who had only won one game in the tournament before this, were having none of it. Buttler, Ali, Woakes, Rashid, Archer all came and went in pretty meek fashion, as the Sri Lankans piled on the pressure. Stokes (above) though was still around, and he took matters into his own hands as he looked to chase the total down – farming the bowling, and from being 46 behind with one wicket remaining, Stokes got England to just 20 behind. But taking a single from the penultimate delivery of Pradeep’s over exposed Mark Wood, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The win gives Sri Lanka renewed optimism of a semi final place – which still seems unlikely, but it will be a win long remembered and give them some much needed confidence. For England, they must now regather and refocus on what now looks a much tougher task than before. Not making the semi finals is virtually unthinkable for the host nation – but, unfortunately, it now hovers on the radar with alarming clarity.
SRI LANKA – REMAINING MATCHES
- 28/6/19 vs South Africa
- 01/7/19 vs West Indies
- 06/7/19 vs India
ENGLAND – REMAINING MATCHES
- 25/6/19 vs Australia
- 30/6/19 vs India
- 03/7/19 vs New Zealand