Astonishing!! Sensational!! Stunning !!
These must have been the adjectives going around in world cricket soon after Srilanka stunned England from nowhere to cause the biggest upset in World Cup 2019 and to provide the much needed oxygen to a tournament which was reeling under the effects of bad weather and consistently poor performances from teams in bottom half of points table which nearly made the semifinalist list a foregone conclusion.
…and Lasith Malinga, what a great competitor!! In doubt about playing World cup months back and nowhere near his lethal pace of 5 to 6 years ago, with his yorkers losing its venom with diminishing pace, the aged talisman still continues to be a handful with his invaluable experience and still those yorkers seem to do the talking at the fag end of his career.
Made to bat first the Lankans were rocked by two early wickets as both openers were sent packing before the spectators could settle in their seats. Jofra Archer produced a good delivery to get rid of Karunaratne, caught behind off an edge while Kusal Parera’s slash by Woakes was gobbled up by thirdman . Aviskha Fernando and Kusal Mendis tried to stem the rot with a crucial 59 run stand. Fernando looked in great touch , playing spectacular cricketing shots all round the wicket and scored a rapid 49 off 62 balls (6 4s, 2 6s) before going for an upper cut to be caught at thirdman. Kusal was then joined by veteran Angelo Mathews in another steady partnership of 71 crucial runs before the former’s long vigil ended at 46 caught at midwicket off Adil Rashid ,who had Jeevan Mendis caught and bowled very next ball. It was from here that Mathews took charge of the Srilankan innings having a crucial stand of 57 with Dhananjaya DSilva(29) and subsequently held his own scoring unbeaten 85 off 115 balls as quick wickets fell at other end. Srilanka finally closed at 232/9 in 50 overs ,with Archer (3/52) ,Wood (3/40) and Rashid (2/45) bowling very impressively and providing England with an apparently easy chase though on a tricky surface for the batsmen.
England were rattled immediately with Bairstow fell lbw 1st ball to Malinga after a failed review and it looked as if Jason Roy’s absence is strongly felt by England with James Vince(14), nowhere near Roy’s explosive calibre , taking time to get going and finally snicking to slip off Malinga. Root and Morgan held the fort for a while in a 47 run stand before a stunning caught and bowled by Udana sent back Morgan (21). However Stokes and Root were involved in a 54 run stand and just when it looked that England were cruising, Root’s (57 off 89) long vigil came to an end when he snicked one down legside to be adjudged caught behind off Malinga after a last second DRS review by Lankans. Malinga soon got the dangerous Buttler (10) lbw with a yorker with DRS not saving the batsman. England 144/5. However the game seemingly started to change again in England’s favour as Moeen Ali began to score briskly but his impetuosity got the better of him as after one six his 2nd attempt next ball off Djananjaya misfired and he was caught at long on brilliantly by Udana inches off the boundary rope to mark a terrible end to his 100th ODI as England slumped to 170/6. Dhananjaya went on to dismiss Woakes and Rashid both caught behind by an agile Kusal Parera as England slumped further to 176/8. Jofra Archer lost his head going for a big heave instead of trying to stay with Stokes (Eng 186/9) after which it was Ben Stokes vs SriLanka, with the allrounder now going for broke , hitting few hefty sixes and looking ominous . He was also farming the strike well allowing Wood minimum balls to face. One of his heaves of Malinga’s final over nearly ended in a catch to deep midwicket. Finally N Pradeep got Wood caught behind off the last ball of 47th over to give Srilanka a stunning win by 20 runs. Lasith Malinga, for his 4/43 off 10 overs was the Man of the match with the brilliant Ben Stokes left high and dry with 82 notout off 79 balls with 7 4s and 4 6s.
This was a tremendous team effort from the Lankans with Malinga (4/43) ,Udana (2/41),Pradeep (1/38) and Dhananjaya D Silva (3/32) bowling their heart out and keeper Kusal Parera taking 4 catches after Angelo Mathews held their batting together with a patient 85.
Thus with just 8 points from 6 matches with 2 losses, England now has to play Australia, New Zealand and India to qualify for semis whereas this win opens the window slightly for the Lankans who looked dead and buried at half way stage not only in this game but also from the World cup stage.
Sri Lanka has indeed reignited the World Cup 2019 .