Nissanka, Samarawickrama fifties propel Sri Lanka to 8-wicket win; England near elimination


England’s reign as the 50-over World Cup champion sunk into serious jeopardy as resolute fifties by Pathum Nissanka and Sadeera Samarawickrama along with a set of on-the-money bowlers spurred tenacious Sri Lanka to an eight-wicket victory here on Thursday.
England, opting to bat first, suffered a baffling batting implosion and were bundled out for a paltry 156, courtesy the five wickets shared among themselves by comeback man Angelo Mathews (2/14) and impressive Lahiru Kumara (3/35).
Despite losing a couple of early wickets, Sri Lanka confidently finished their chase as Nissanka (77 off 83 balls) and Samarawickrama (65 off 54 balls) led the process with an unbroken 137-run stand for the third wicket.
With just two points from five matches, England retain a mere theoretical chance to make it to the semifinals, while the Islanders, who now have four points, can eye a few stronger outings in the remaining four matches.
England might have hoped for a miracle when they dismissed opener Kusal Perera and Lankan captain Kusal Mendis through left-arm pacer David Willey to reduce their opponents to 23 for 2. But Nissanka and Samarawickrama, two of SL’s best ODI batters this year, combined to produce a solid partnership to ease Lanka’s nerves.
The right-handers are capable of elegance but with a victory very much in need the pair traded flair for compactness for a good part of their alliance. Flashes of their natural batsmanship, though, were there. Samarawickrama delectably drove Wiley through the covers, while Nissanka waltzed down the track and smoked leg-spinner Adil Rashid over long-on for a huge six.
Nissanka brought up his fifty, his fourth in the tournament, with a flowing cover drive off pacer Mark Wood and Samarawickrama reached his second half-century of this edition with a wristy single to mid-wicket off Chris Woakes. But otherwise, the Lankans batted within themselves and gathered runs in a determined fashion to keep England bowlers at bay.
And England lacked determination on the day. It was just a matter of a couple of batsmen sticking out in the middle for the Three Lions to reach a far better and competitive total. But none barring Ben Stokes (43) and Dawid Malan (28) did not even remotely attempt to bat with purpose for a team that was playing in a must-win match. There was a bit of spongy bounce on the M Chinnaswamy Stadium deck and the Lankan bowlers were accurate but the shambolic way in which the England batsmen played could not be shielded.
Opener Dawid Malan who milked 45 runs with his partner Jonny Bairstow, could be excused though.
Rashid’s comical run out while backing up too far could be taken as a symbol of England’s drudges with the bat on the day. But the inept batting display of England should not rob the Lankan bowlers of the just credit. Kumara has the tendency to be all over the place but when he hits his lengths correctly, the right-arm pacer is a different beast who can hustle the batters. And hustled England were indeed on the day by a vastly superior Lankan side.
Brief Scores:
England: 156 all out in 33.2 overs (Jonny Bairstow 30, Ben Stokes 43; Kasun Rajitha 2/36, Angelo Mathews 2/14, Lahiru Kumara 3/35).
Sri Lanka: 160 for 2 in 25.4 overs (Pathum Nissanka 77 not out, Sadeera Samarawickrama 65 not out; David Willey 2/30). (PTI)