Lankans hold nerve in thriller

Dilhara Fernando kept himself – and his front foot – under control in the final over at the Rose Bowl as Sri Lanka won the Twenty20 International.

England gave an International debut to Yorkshire seamer Tim Bresnan, in place of the injured Glenn Chapple, but were otherwise unchanged from the side that defeated Ireland in Belfast. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, rested both Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas and opted for a four-pronged pace attack in Ruchira Perera, Dilhara Fernando, Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof.

Mahela Jayawardene surprised nobody by electing to bat as he won the toss, looking to extend the statistic showing every International T20 has been won by the winner of the toss. New boy Bresnan found early movement, but most of it just made wide balls wider, and as he over-compensated and dragged his bowling short Sanath Jayasuriya capitalised.

The dangerous left-hander should have been dismissed early on, however, as an uppercut off the fiery Steve Harmison – who later touched 95mph – picked out Ed Joyce at third man. Unluckily for the Irishman and his adopted country, he both grassed the chance and landed extremely awkwardly on his right ankle and in all likelihood ruling him out of the ODI series. Owais Shah, Vikram Solanki or Rikki Clarke are the likely replacements.

Play was stopped for fifteen minutes as Joyce waited for an ambulance – his ankle either dislocated or fractured according to early reports – but on resumption the Sri Lankan openers switched up a gear. Neither Bresnan, Liam Plunkett nor Sajid Mahmood could slow the Lankan pace, and Andrew Strauss was forced to turn to Paul Collingwood in the eighth over. It took five balls for the Durham man to break through, Upul Tharanga inside edging a drive onto leg stump to spark an implosion.

Mahela Jayawardene was run out in the very next over without scoring as Jayasuriya turned down a single to substitute Ian Bell at short fine leg, before the remaining opener fell, a fortuitous LBW, to Collingwood. Tillekeratne Dilshan snicked Jamie Dalrymple to Geraint Jones before Russel Arnold – bowled – and Kumar Sangakkara – caught by Strauss at short midwicket – became further victims of Collingwood as the all-rounder recorded figures of 4-22, the best in International Twenty20 cricket’s short history.

The visitors’ lightning run-rate was slowed, and Chamara Kapugedera and Farveez Maharoof began to look towards using all the twenty overs – until Maharoof was run out, twice, off the same ball. A direct hit from Ian Bell truncated the all-rounder’s first single, and he was well short of his ground as he chanced an overthrow from the rebound. ‘Kapu’ added a majestic straight six off Plunkett before slapping Mahmood to Kevin Pietersen on the extra cover boundary, before Plunkett cleaned up the tail. Lasith Malinga skied a pull to Bell at midwicket, before Dilhara Fernando perished off the final delivery as he risked a suicidal single.

A batsman down, England’s reply began in controlled but seemingly routine fashion as Andrew Strauss launched a series of four consecutive boundaries off Ruchira Perera – two through midwicket, one through extra cover and the fourth straight – before being cleaned up as he played across the line to Fernando. Even after this setback, Kevin Pietersen’s arrival kept the hosts easing towards the target, until he fell to Sanath Jayasuriya, pulling a dreadful leg stump long hop to the right of the diving Malinga on the leg side boundary.

Collingwood came and went – chipping Dilshan to Jayawardene at midwicket – before Jamie Dalrymple produced a reverse sweep to rival Mike Gatting’s 19 years before. The Middlesex all-rounder pulled out of the shot halfway through, and the resulting nervy push gave Sangakkara catching practice. The experience of Trescothick and Geriant Jones looked to be carrying England through their wobbles as a combination of ingenuity, hard hitting and strong running brought the asking rate well within reach – until Sangakkara’s reactions accounted for the Somerset opener.

As the ball dribbled off the left hander’s pads, Sangakkara launched himself onto it, spinning and throwing down the stumps with the batsman still out of his ground having considered a sprinted single. This left Bresnan alongside Jones with the target at nine from the final over and – as the Yorkshireman suffered a dot ball from the third delivery and the wicketkeeper failed to connect with the penultimate ball, settling for a scampered one off the pads, Bresnan was set five from the last ball.

Dilhara Fernando – like Maharoof a bowler with an infamous no-ball problem – had kept his front foot behind the line all night, and did the same from the last ball, which Bresnan threw all he could at, sending it high, skywards and towards fine leg. Sangakkara raced backwards as the England batsmen furiously sprinted, and as the Sri Lankan gloveman caught up with the ball inside the ropes, Bresnan had to settle for two – too few to prevent the visitors upsetting the odds and winning on English soil once more. The first ODI of the five-game series takes place at Lord’s on Saturday, and it would be a brave man to write the chances of the tourists – set to welcome Murali and Vaas back into harness – taking the spoils once more.

Sri Lanka 163
Sanath Jayasuriya 41, Upul Tharanga 34
Paul Collingwood 4-22, Jamie Dalrymple 1-17

England 161-5
Marcus Trescothick 72, Andrew Strauss 33
Sanath Jayasuriya 2-32, Tillekeratne Dilshan 1-18

Sri Lanka won by 2 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) – 41 and 2-32

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