By Dinouk Colombage
A combined team effort by Sri Lanka helped them record an emphatic 10 wicket victory over England in their quarter-final clash and send the latter crashing out of the World Cup on Saturday. England’s run of tight games in the World Cup came to an abrupt halt as they were handed a ten wicket drubbing by Sri Lanka in Colombo on Saturday. Chasing England’s modest 229/6 Sri Lanka’s openers batted through the innings unseparated as Sri Lanka reached their target with all wickets intact and ten overs to spare.
England won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch that has traditionally favoured the team batting first. The toss turned out to be the only thing that went right for England and the rest of their day was all downhill.
Despite playing in overcast conditions Sri Lanka chose to go into the game with three specialist spinners with paceman Nuwan Kulasekera making way for left arm spinner Rangana Herath who joined Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis in the attack. England were unchanged from their previous game – sticking with Chris Tremlett over the out of form James Anderson.
The English openers played cautiously against the new ball as they looked to get to grips with the slow nature of the wicket. Kumar Sangakkara in a surprise move gave part-time spinner Tillekeratne Dilshan the new ball alongside Lasith Malinga.
The move worked well as neither of the openers looked comfortable against the spin. Andrew Strauss never looked settled at the wicket struggling with his timing and placement. The England Captain had scratched around for 3 runs off 21 balls looking all at sea against Dilshan when latter put a merciful end to his misery by knocking back his middle stump with a top spinner.
Ian Bell, who was promoted to the opening position for this match, looked threatening for a short while as he scored 25 runs off 32 deliveries before he hit Angelo Matthews straight to Samaraweera. His dismissal in the 9th over left England at a precarious position of 31 for 2.
Ravi Bopara and Jonathan Trott combined to lift England to 95 before Muralitharan removed Bopara for 31. With the fall of the wicket in the 27th over England duly needed a partnership and one which would lift the scoring rate. Irish born Eoin Morgan certainly looked the part as he took the attack to the bowlers. A mixture of boundaries and quick run singles meant that England’s run rate began to climb steadily. Morgan and Trott put on a 91 run partnership in 16 overs as England looked to be building towards a competitive total.
During the partnership Sir Lanka’s fielding which has been quite outstanding throughout the tournament suddenly nosedived and regulation catches were put down by Angelo Mathews, Thilan Samaraweera and Rangana Herath. Opting for the batting powerplay in the 43rd over England carried on the trend that has been seen throughout the World Cup as they lost 2 quick wickets.
The first to go was Eoin Morgan for a well-made 50 off 55 deliveries. His dismissal was followed immediately after by Graeme Swann who was trapped LBW off the bowling of Ajantha Mendis for a duck. The powerplay proved to be inexpensive for Sri Lanka as it cost only 23 runs but also saw the fall of 2 wickets including the dangerous Eoin Morgan.
Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott tried to lift the scoring rate however tight bowling by the Sri Lankans ensured that they were unable to capitalise on the good platform laid by Trott and Morgan. Trott was finally dismissed in the 49th over caught on the boundary by Jayawardena off the bowling of Muralitharan for a valuable 86 runs. Sri Lanka’s good death bowling ensured that England was only able to post 229 for 6 in their 50 overs – about 30 runs below par. For England Trott top scored with 86 while Muralitharan was the pick of the bowlers picking up 2 wickets for 54 runs.
England began their defence of 230 in similar fashion to Sri Lanka by opening with a mix of pace and spin in the form of Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann. The two openers looked to take the attack to the bowlers as they both picked off boundaries, including a straight six off Swann. The pair raced to their 50 run partnership in 9 overs, easing the pressure on the rest of the batting line-up. Chris Tremlett’s introduction did not pay off as the two in the middle continued to score at a rate maintaining the pressure on the English fielders.
This was clearly evident when Tharanga lofted a drive straight to long off only to have the fielder hesitate before seeing the ball drop short. Andrew Strauss’ desperation to get a wicket was evident from his decision to delay taking the bowling powerplay. The 100 run partnership between the two openers was brought up in the 19th over. Dilshan registered his half century in only 57 deliveries and Tharanga followed suit shortly afterwards his 50 coming off 70 deliveries.
Strauss finally opted to take the bowling powerplay in the 30th over in an attempt to manufacture a wicket but the move backfired and the Sri Lankan openers continued on their way registering the 150 run stand in the 30th over. England’s experiment of the bowling powerplay failed as they conceded 40 runs while failing to break the partnership.
Dilshan and Tharanga continued to pile on the misery for the English bowlers as they registered their second double century partnership. The 200 came up in the 36th over. Dilshan stamped his authority on the game in the 37th over when he registered his second century of the tournament, it came off 107 deliveries.
Tharanga followed up with his own century shortly afterwards bringing up the hundred in a 122 deliveries. Fittingly the two openers saw their team through to the end as they comprehensively beat England by 10 wickets in the 40th over.
Sri Lanka’s emphatic ten wicket victory helped erase the memories of their fielding in the afternoon while also confirming their spot in the semi-finals. They will once again meet New Zealand this time at home at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. For England their long winter which included the ashes success comes to a disappointing end as they bow out of the 2011 World Cup on the back of a humiliating 10 wicket loss to Sri Lanka.