England collapsed to a shambolic 157-run defeat at the Emirates Durham ICG as Sri Lanka levelled the Royal London one-day international series at 1-1.
England, who did almost everything right in an 81-run win at The Oval three days ago, this time did many things wrong – especially in a hapless pursuit of 256 for eight which ultimately mustered 99 all out in 26.1 overs, their fifth-lowest ODI total. Nuwan Kulasekara (three for 15) did the initial damage, in a spell of three wickets for one run as England lost four for 10 – and at no subsequent stage, despite an attempted rearguard from stand-in captain Eoin Morgan, did they threaten a passable recovery.
It seemed Morgan, deputising for the injured Alastair Cook, had this morning won an important toss which allowed him to put Sri Lanka in on a pitch offering all bowlers sideways movement under cloud cover.
But once England began to bat, it became increasingly clear that the efforts of top-scorer Tillakaratne Dilshan (88) and latterly Ashan Priyanjan were more significant than had first appeared.
Kulasekara had Michael Carberry pushing forward and edging behind, before Ian Bell was also caught by the wicketkeeper off a faulty cut and then Gary Ballance was lbw on the front-foot defence to a delivery which shaped back into him.
In between, Lasith Malinga made short work of Joe Root – back when he might have been forward in defence, and losing his off stump.
Ravi Bopara was then bowled by an off-break from Sachithra Senanayake, who was soon bamboozling Chris Jordan to have him lbw on the back foot, and Jos Buttler appeared to confuse himself as he bunted a simple catch to mid off in captain Angelo Mathews’ solitary over.
As England’s run of four consecutive ODI victories came to an abrupt end, only details remained.
They included a new career-best return of four for 13 for Senanayake and, thanks principally to Morgan’s 40 before he was ninth out for only the second double-figure score of the innings, the avoidance of any new record low totals or margins of failure.
The initial impression, several hours earlier, had been that Sri Lanka’s batsmen perhaps erred on the side of caution as they kept wickets intact at the expense of momentum.
Morgan deployed his bowlers sensibly, but England donated 15 extra runs and deliveries in wides and put down two routine outfield catches.
Dilshan batted largely against type in a 101-ball stay which faltered at a decidedly inconvenient moment for the tourists, mid-powerplay just when they had a chance to cash in on their conservative early approach.
Opener Lahiru Thirimanne’s innings was a curiosity, even allowing for the awkward conditions facing him and Dilshan.
The left-hander took 18 balls to register his first run, a single to fine-leg off James Anderson, but then responded to some nasty bounce up to the splice from Harry Gurney by smashing the left-armer’s very next delivery over wide long on for six.
He still, however, had made only 10 off 37 balls when Anderson got him for the second match in succession – this time with a little extra bounce and away movement, edged to second slip where James Tredwell took a neat catch.
Dilshan was joined by Kumar Sangakkara, back on the ground where he made his Durham debut three weeks ago after deciding to acclimatise for this tour.
They dug in for a stand of 96 in 21 overs until Sangakkara went after Tredwell but managed only to slog-sweep him straight up in the air.
Mahela Jayawardene failed to make his ground for a third run to third-man, beaten by a chase from Ballance and throw on the turn which was not pinpoint.
When Jordan nipped a very good ball back through Dilshan’s forward push to hit middle stump, Sri Lanka’s hopes of a big powerplay ended.
But Priyanjan, on six by Gurney at third-man off Jordan, and then Mathews, on 24 at deep midwicket by Bopara off Anderson, were both dropped in a stand of 66 which helped to add 87 in the last 10 overs despite a late clatter of wickets to Gurney (three for 59).
Priyanjan, playing here only because of Thisara Perera’s injury, produced a little gem of an innings of 43 from only 33 balls, before he mistimed to mid-on to become Anderson’s 250th ODI victim.
It transpired he had already helped Sri Lanka make more than enough runs.
:: Sri Lanka seamer Suranga Lakmal has a hamstring tear which will keep him out of the remainder of the series. The tourists have called up Shaminda Eranga as a replacement.