Chris Jordan produced an irresistible spell as England’s bowlers returned fire on Sri Lanka in a smash-and-grab 10-wicket win to re-establish their Royal London series lead. Only three days ago in Durham, England were collapsing to 99 all out and one of their heaviest one-day international defeats – but at Emirates Old Trafford, they hustled Sri Lanka out for 67, their third-lowest score in this format.
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell then made necessarily short work of the chase, with rain threatening, in a match which lasted only 36.1 overs altogether.
Cook, back from the groin strain which ruled him out in the north-east, simply won the toss under heavy cloud cover and then unleashed James Anderson and Jordan – who finished with a career-best five for 29.
James Tredwell joined the fun too, sharing four for 12 with Anderson, and only Harry Gurney was wicketless as the tourists collapsed in 24 overs.
Anderson quickly shifted the openers, and first-change Jordan ripped the heart out of the rest of the Sri Lanka batting – both with the help of Jos Buttler’s four catches behind the stumps.
The tourists then lost their last six wickets for nine runs, in decidedly awkward but not insurmountable conditions after bad weather caused a slightly-delayed start and necessitated the use of floodlights almost throughout.
Anderson and Buttler instantly made themselves at home again at the ground where the former has been a crowd favourite for more than a decade and the latter is the newly-arrived Lancashire wicketkeeper, via his native Taunton.
But it was Jordan who was the star of this show, as he had been in England’s opening victory – with bat as well as ball on that occasion – at The Oval last week.
Sri Lanka were soon 13 for two, Tillakaratne Dilshan departing to a very good delivery from Anderson which cut into him off the pitch to take the inside edge for a neat catch by Buttler.
Lahiru Thirimanne then succumbed to the same scoreboard entry, having gone up the wicket to try to flail a short ball through the off-side but got a thin edge instead.
Anderson had a chance too to send Mahela Jayawardene back run-out for the second match in succession.
But having momentarily lost his grip on a greasy ball as he turned in his follow-through, his aim from 10 yards at all three stumps was errant – and Jayawardene survived on four, having called Kumar Sangakkara through for a faulty single to short mid on.
That missed opportunity soon mattered little.
First, Sangakkara edged an attempted drive at Jordan behind to go for what would prove Sri Lanka’s highest individual score, 13; then Dinesh Chandimal poked a catch to cover off the same bowler.
The wicket of Jayawardene was still going to be key, however, and it was Tredwell who got it with his first delivery – an innocuous but accurate off-break as the veteran batsman got in a tangle on the back foot to go lbw.
Captain Angelo Mathews was then caught-behind driving at Jordan to kickstart the terminal collapse which included a direct-hit run-out by Ravi Bopara, Nuwan Kulasekara’s edge to slip and a faulty hit into the deep off Tredwell by Sachithra Senanayake first ball.
Finally, Jordan had number 11 Lasith Malinga lbw to complete the procession.
The game was surely up already, unless more rain moved in to rob England.
England openers Cook and Bell were therefore not going to waste any time, after just a 10-minute innings break.
The captain needed some fortune on 12 when he pulled Malinga straight to square-leg, where Senanayake could not hold on.
But for England, the only conceivable threat was from the clouds above – and they were wise enough to that to make sure there would be no injustice in the air, Bell sealing victory with a straight six off Rangana Herath to make it 2-1 with two to play.