England level series in Dambulla

England beat Sri Lanka comfortably in the Second ODI to level the series 1-1 in a virtual mirror-image of the first game. Batting first, England struggled of times but came through to post a decent score, and defended it easily after the sun went down as the pitch livened-up in the night-time. Owais Shah was the star of the batting, playing possibly his most impressive knock in his 6-year-spanning ODI career to pull his team from a tricky early-innings situation, and the bowlers, led by Ryan Sidebottom, produced a fine all-round effort to cut down the Sri Lankan top-order and ensure the hosts were never really in with a shout.

James Anderson has posed a huge threat more than once in such conditions, but this time it was Sidebottom who produced the telling blows, swinging the ball ferociously, if occasionally beyond his control, in his opening overs. His first four deliveries contained enough action to fill most spells: his first went for four as he drifted onto Tharanga’s pads; his second pitched perfectly on the off, swung away and found Alastair Cook (who had earlier fallen to an almost identical ball from Chaminda Vaas) diving at second-slip to take a fine catch; his third swung so far from Kumar Sangakkara that the Umpire spread his arms; and the fourth was an even better delivery that Kumar Sangakkara could only edge again, presenting Cook with a much simpler chance than the last. The 22-year-old has still yet to completely convince with his hands, though, and this one was a reminder of the bad early days of his career, when more went down than stuck. Sangakkara received another let-off at the end of Anderson’s next over, as he slashed at a short, wide delivery, top-edged and found Philip Mustard’s glove. The wicketkeeper could not bury it within however, and looked back crestfallen as it looped slowly to ground.

Sidebottom was not disheartened, however, and kept plugging away. Ironically, it was one of his worst deliveries that brought him his next wicket, as Jayasuriya hammered a wide, slow long-hop straight at Ian Bell at extra-cover. The batsmen walked off with a disbelieving look, and the English bowlers kept the squeeze on Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene very effectively thereafter. Eventually, at the end of the 13th, Sangakkara’s luck ran-out, as he drove at Broad, nicked, and found Mustard clinging-on this time. Broad was on a hat-trick after the first ball of his next over, as Chamara Silva totally misjudged a short delivery, first aiming to pull, withdrawing from the stroke and succeeding only in offering a simple chance to Paul Collingwood at gully. At 38 for 4 the game was as good as won.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, aggressively, and Jayawardene, slowly, hinted at turning the tide. Dilshan smashed his 2nd delivery for four, and continued to look good as the bowlers pitched too short at him. Graeme Swann’s introduction in the 23rd over, however, settled things well-and-truly, as his third delivery pitched outside off, turned back hugely, and gated Dilshan, attempting an extravagant drive. If any doubt remained, it was removed as Jayawardene chipped the last ball of Collingwood’s second over, a slower-ball, straight to Kevin Pietersen at mid-wicket. The Sri Lankans had subsided to 90 for 6, requiring 5.5-an-over.

Jehan Mubarak and Farveez Maharoof defied the tide for a time, but never really looked like getting back into the game. Eventually, Maharoof chipped a return catch to the once-again excellent Swann, and Collingwood produced a fine delivery which slid across Chaminda Vaas to take the outside-edge and provide his Durham team-mate with his second catch. Malinga was run out in the following over, and though Mubarak and Dilhara Fernando stopped the rot, the run-rate climbed all the time and despite some anxiety in the crowd towards the end of their 43-run last-wicket stand, the Sri Lankans never engendered any real hope, and the final nail was inserted as Collingwood managed a direct-hit in the 45th over to remove Fernando and close the Sri Lankan innings for 169, 65 short of their target.

It was a target which should have been considerably smaller than it was. The England innings had got off to the worst possible start, Vaas claiming the wicket of Cook in his 2nd over with the score on just 1. The delivery was a beauty, close enough to force Cook to play, and moving away enough to take the outside-edge. Jayawardene took a fine catch low to his right at first-slip. Play was delayed, as it had been in the first game, by a dog wandering onto the field at the end of that over, and four similar interruptions followed later in the game.

In Vaas’ 3rd over Jayawardene was presented with another opportunity by Bell, this one lower but straight at him. Uncharacteristically, he dropped it, and when Bell took two boundaries off Malinga’s next over it looked potentially costly. Fortunately for his captain, however, Maharoof, replacing Malinga immediately after that over, struck with his 2nd delivery. Bell, as is his wont in the shorter game, had been walking across his stumps, and down the pitch to Vaas as Sangakkara refused to stand up to the stumps. He paid for it, however, as the ball from Maharoof nipped back, pinning him plumb in front and giving Rudi Koertzen a straightforward decision.

Vaas, after suffering at the hands of Mustard in the opening game, kept both the Durham wicketkeeper and Pietersen quiet with a splendid display of line, length and nous. Maharoof merely carried-on where he had left-off from Monday, and Fernando, introduced in the 13th, also gave little away. After 17 overs England had just 56 on the board, including just 5 boundaries. Something had to give, and it did as Mustard, who had already tried some improvisation and seen it fail to come-off, attempted to scoop one from Maharoof over the leg-side, and almost got the back of the bat to it, succeeding only in giving an easy chance to Mubarak at short-extra-cover.

After an emphatic cover-drive the following ball from Pietersen (the batsmen crossed during Mustard’s dismissal), disaster struck as he attempted to pull a short delivery from Fernando, and hit it straight to Jayawardene at mid-wicket. He had neither got enough elevation on the ball nor kept it down, and though he got it in front of square was never in control of the stroke.

For the next 2.2 overs the Sri Lankans attained complete control, and even a single was a rare event. Shortly after the Powerplays were finished, however, Jayawardene inexplicably dropped his field back. Collingwood and Shah had shown no sign of aggressive intent, but were allowed easy singles aplenty. Between the 18th and 33rd over, just one boundary was struck, yet between the 21st and 32nd England still scored 53, mostly with minimal risk. When Collingwood struck two boundaries from Jayasuriya in the 33rd then pulled Fernando over the rope in the 35th, the tide seemed to be turning. The following two deliveries were also short, the latter called a wide. It was a good thing for the bowler that it was, however, as the extra delivery darted back on a perfect length and trapped the England captain stone-dead in front, Umpire Tyron Wijewardene putting the finger up almost before the bowler had a chance to appeal.

Ravinder Bopara did not long, wandering across his stumps to Dilshan and allowing one to hit his leg-stump. Swann, however, played superbly. The first 6 innings of the partnership between Shah and Swann produced no boundaries, but singles aplenty and the occasional two. Despite the occasional boundary for Shah, this pattern continued for the rest of the innings. Swann was run out following a mix-up for a boundaryless 37-ball 34, and in the final over Shah blasted a slower-ball from Maharoof towards extra-cover, where Silva dived and took a superb catch. Shah had made 82, however, and taken his side to 234 for 8, a total which many thought would be competitive but few imagined would result in a victory almost as easy as the Sri Lankans’ the previous game.

England 234
Owais Shah 82, Paul Collingwood 42
Farveez Maharoof 9-30-3

Sri Lanka 169 all out
Jehan Mubarak 44*
Ryan Sidebottom 10-23-2, Graeme Swann 10-27-2

England won by 65 runs

Man Of The Match: Owais Shah

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