Lahiru Thirimanne (139*) and Kumar Sangakkara (117*) compiled graceful centuries to help Sri Lanka crush England by nine wickets in a World Cup Pool A game at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Sunday.
England had posted a challenging total of 309/6 driven by young Joe Root’s 121. But Sri Lanka got off to a very good start and they never looked in any sort of trouble. Tilakaratne Dilshan (44) was in very good form as he stroked four boundaries and two sixes before losing his wicket to spinner Moeen Ali.
Till then their scoreboard read 100/1 in 19 overs and left-hander Thirimanne was going at a great pace. Veteran left-hander Sangakkara came in and got into groove very early and it helped the 25-year-old Thirimanne. They stitched a 212-run unbeaten partnership for the second wicket to help Sri Lanka cross the line with 2.4 overs and nine wickets to spare.
Thirimanne notched up his fourth One-Day International (ODI) ton. He scored 13 fours and two sixes in his 143-ball innings.
Meanwhile, it seemed the 37-year-old Sangakkara started from where he left against Bangladesh in the previous match when he had registered 105. He had reached the three figure mark in 73 balls to record his quickest ODI hundred. On Sunday, he bettered that mark by three deliveries that also gave him his 23rd century. He dominated the English bowlers, hammering 11 fours and two sixes.
With this win, 1996 World Cup champions Sri Lanka recorded their third straight victory in the World Cup, closing on a quarterfinal berth. England crumbled to their third loss in the tournament.
Earlier, right-hander Root scored his fourth century in ODI cricket to power his country to a position of strength. Several batsmen chipped in with useful contributions for England.
Experienced opener Ian Bell made 49 in 54 balls, while Eoin Morgan (27) and James Taylor (25) got two very good partnerships with the 24-year-old Root. Jos Buttler provided late spark with an unbeaten 39 of 19 balls.
England lost their first wicket in the form of last match’s centurion Moeen Ali (15). The left-hander offered an easy catch off skipper Angelo Mathews to Suranga Lakmal at mid-off with the scoreboard reading 62/1 in 9.2 overs. Next man in, Gary Balance (6) was caught by Dilshan off his own bowling that made 71/2 in 12.2 overs.
The partnership between Root and Bell lasted for only 30 runs as the latter had his stumps rattled by medium pacer Lakmal. When Bell fell for 49, with the help of seven fours, their innings looked to be in danger of faltering at 101/3 in 20.2 overs.
Root put on 60 for the fourth wicket with Morgan (27) before the captain’s fierce cut shot could only pick out Dilshan at gully off Thisara Perera. However, England continued their recovery as Root reached his century off 101 balls as he and Taylor (25) attacked in the final 10 overs. They forged a 98-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Lasith Malinga returned to remove Taylor and Herath trapped Root in front of the wickets as Sri Lanka looked to halt England’s progress. England managed to surpass 300 thanks to Buttler’s 39 from 19 balls as Sri Lanka struggled to restrict their opponents. Right-hander Buttler hit six fours and a six.
But the total proved to be easy for Sri Lanka thanks to two artistic knocks from Thirimanne and Sangakkara.
Brief Scores: England 309/6 (Joe Root 121, Ian Bell 49; Tilakaratne Dilshan 1/35, Angelo Mathews 1/43), Sri Lanka 312/1 (Lahiru Thirimanne not out 139, Kumar Sangakkara not out 117; Moeen Ali 1/50). Sri Lanka win by nine wickets. (IANS)