LONDON, Sunday - World champs Sri Lanka came back strongly after an indifferent start to capture seven England wickets for 24 runs off 35 balls to leave themselves with a comfortable target of 248 runs to beat England in the second fifty-over match of the Emirates triangular tournament at Lord's here today.
Having inserted England first after winning the toss, Sri Lanka allowed the home team to run away to a total of 223 for three wickets in 44 overs, with a poor fielding display unbecoming of their status as world champion before pulling back in the last six overs to redress the balance.
Sri Lanka's lapse on the field when they gave 'lives' to Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick and Nasser Hussain saw England capitalising largely and threatening to run up a total near the 300-run mark.
Following the early loss of openers Alistair Brown and Nick Knight to Pramodya Wickremasinghe, England got their game together with Hick sharing in two half-century partnerships which kept England's run rate well in excess of five runs an over.
Stewart made 51 off 67 balls with eight fours before becoming the first of Sanath Jayasuriya's three victims. He was let off at 42 when Muthiah Muralitharan failed to hold a return catch. With Hick, Stewart added 76 for the third wicket off 82 balls.
A further 91-run stand off 113 balls followed for the fourth wicket between Hick and Hussain. Hick missed by Jayasuriya at 77 after top edging a sweep off Muralitharan went on to score 86 off 97 balls, before getting run out. The decision was put the third umpire. Hick who made 111 for Worcestershire in the one-day game against Sri Lanka, was in fine form slamming one massive six over the members stand and four fours.
Hussain reprieved at 29 when Dharmasena dropped him in the deep off Muralitharan, made 39 off 61 balls with one six and one four. Following his dismissal at 223, sparked off a sensational England collapse where the next seven wickets crashed for 24 runs.
Jayasuriya distinguished himself with super figures of 3 for 36 off 10 overs, while Wickremasinghe and Perera took two apiece.
Sri Lanka made one change from the side that beat South Africa by 57 runs on Friday. Mahela Jayawardene was left out in favour of left-hander Russel Arnold. England made a late replacement when Mark Ealham was declared unfit with a side strain and Lancashire's 32-year-old all-rounder Ian Austin was given his first one-day cap. Austin, who bowls right-arm medium-pace and bats left-handed was taken to task by Aravinda de Silva during his magnificent century for Kent in the Benson and Hedges Cup final at Lord's three years ago.
England in 36-run win over Sri Lanka
LONDON, Sunday - World champs Sri Lanka had to bank on their tailenders to carry them to the final of the Emirates Triangular tournament.
Despite the 36-run defeat by England in their last preliminary round match played at Lord's here today, Sri Lanka mustered enough runs from their last four batsmen to qualify for a place for Thursday's final at the same venue. For a team that was lucky to get to Lord's every five years, ironically, Sri Lanka now find themselves appearing at cricket's headquarters twice within five days.
To know who their opponents at Thursday's final are, Sri Lanka must await the qualifying round game between England and South Africa at Edgbaston on Tuesday. A win for England would make it a straight final between the home country and Sri Lanka. For South Africa to qualify, they have to win by a margin in excess of 60 runs or reach whatever target set by England within a specific number of overs, to overcome their deficit net run rate of minus 1.14. England's present nett run rate is a healthy plus 0.72.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to be displaced from a place in the final as they have finished their qualifying matches with a plus nett run rate of 0.22.
England's total of 247 would in any other day not represent any challenge to Sri Lanka's powerful batting line-up. But today, nothing went right for them. It was just one of those days. When skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was seventh out at 126 in the 31st over, Sri Lanka looked definitely out of the final. If they were to have any chance of qualifying, Sri Lanka had to lose by less than the margin they beat South Africa on Friday. Sri Lanka won that contest by 57 runs.
Calculators were brought into play and strict instructions were issued to the tailend batsmen, from the dressing room, that they must try to bat out the full fifty overs and ensure Sri Lanka lose to England by a smaller margin.
Crisis man Kumara Dharmasena was at hand to guide his team's destiny. With excellent support from Suresh Perera (17), Pramodya Wickremasinghe (18) and Muthiah Muralitharan (18), he managed to add 85 priceless runs for the last three wickets to see his country through to the final. They were eventually dismissed for 211 in the final over. If at all Sri Lanka go onto win Thursday's final, all credit should go to Dharmasena and the tail.
Dharmasena was left unbeaten on a fighting 33 scored off 73 balls with one four. That figure also reached by skipper Ranatunga (off 68 balls, 4 fours) and vice-captain Aravinda de Silva (off 45 balls, five fours) was to remain the highest individual score in the Sri Lankan innings. When Sri Lanka began their run chase it looked as if England had followed the advise given by South African captain Hansie Cronje to the very letter.
``I think it is important for England to bowl well because Sri Lanka obviously set the pace right from the start. The key to it for England is to take early wickets,'' said Cronje after South Africa's loss to Sri Lanka on Friday.
The England bowlers spearheaded by Darren Gough did just that. They fired out the top four batsmen for 49 runs, and when one-day debutant Ian Austin won a leg before appeal against De Silva at 83 in the 20th over, the game was as good as lost.
Ranatunga was quick to compliment the England bowlers when he said: ``All credit should go to England for the way they bowled. They bowled to a really good plan and showed more discipline. It was the key factor for us losing too many wickets at the beginning''.
``We didn't play well at all. The way we played we deserved to lose. We bowled badly, fielded terribly and our batting was not upto expectations. It was a really bad game overall. In a way, Iam happy all this happened in one game,'' said Ranatunga.
``We have a lot of hard work to do in the next four days before the final. We must show a little more discipline in our middle-order batting and try to hit upon a winning combination,'' he said. In both their matches, Sri Lankan batsmen have failed to last the full fifty overs.
The grey areas in the Sri Lankan line-up are the number six spot which has seen Mahela Jayawardene and then Russel Arnold, both given opportunities, failing. Sri Lanka may consider bringing back Hashan Tillekeratne.
The other worry is the failure of Chandika Hathurusingha to perform the bowler/batsman role at number seven. Leg-spinner Upul Chandana with the added advantage of being a brilliant fielder, maybe under consideration for that spot.
England captain Alec Stewart said: ``We are looking to win both games and come back here for the final. We played two very good Test matches and won that series and we came up with a pretty good performance today. We've got to keep building on it. We start from scratch each game. The moment you sit back and think you've done it, that's when it becomes a cropper''.
Stewart admitted that England got the breaks they needed to beat Sri Lanka in today's game.
``Their attacking batsmen can get them off to a flier. We were fortunate the ball swung and we got a couple of early wickets to swing the game our way. Two hundred and sixy was a good total, although we were looking at something like 280. All credit to their spinners, I think they stuck to their task pretty well. It's not so easy playing against spin. Sri Lanka are a very good one-day side,'' said Stewart.
The England captain also praised the batting of Graeme Hick whose knock of 86 off 97 balls won him the 1,500 pounds sterling Man-of-the-Match award from adjudicator Bob Willis, the former England captain and fast bowler.
``Hick is a top quality player. He played very well and got important runs for us which would have boosted his confidence. He misses out now and again as he did in his three innings against South Africa.
So be it. We back him. The players support him, that is the most important thing,'' said Stewart, who also praised the bowling of newcomer Austin and recalled fast bowler Allan Mullally. England collected a cheque for 10,000 pounds sterling as winners of today's contest.