A resolute Sri Lankan side held their nerve in the fourth ODI at Lord’s to keep the five-match series alive, poised at 2-2 heading into the decider at Edgbaston. Sri Lanka will be chasing their first ODI series victory in England since 2006, and a win here would make it two series wins from three attempts in the land that birthed the game. England reigned victorious in 2011 but history has shown that the hosts have generally battled to contain an aggressive Sri Lanka, and doubts remain in their ability to either set or chase big totals. Although Jos Buttler’s masterclass, feverishly being touted as the best ever English one-day innings, was a statement of intent, the fact remains that England’s batsmen have largely failed in the series thus far.
Sri Lanka 19/20
The home side have shown glimpses of the recent past; James Anderson has delivered some useful spells in the series, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell looked fluent in their partnership to chase down Sri Lanka’s meagre 67 in Manchester and Ravi Bopara was belligerent in support of Jos Buttler. England’s skittling of the Sri Lankans is, however, slightly less impressive given the fact that they were, themselves, bowled out for 99 just a game previously. It has been that kind of series for England. One good performance mitigated by a collapse, a spirited fightback inevitably coming in vain.
They went for too many at Lord’s and although the likes of Eoin Morgan, Buttler and Bopara inspire the notion of quick scoring, the fact is that England’s top order, entrusted with anchoring the innings, often don’t begin with the impetus needed to go past 300. And in this day and age, 300 in fifty overs is not particularly challenging. A mountain that has become more of a hill. There is no doubt that England have the ability to make inroads into the Sri Lankan batting order and should conditions suit them in Birmingham, will look to employ a shorter length and hurry the visitors. But a dreary English summer usually suits the pitch-it-up and swing it variety and Sri Lanka have, aside from Manchester, dealt with it well.
Much can be celebrated regarding Sri Lanka’s victory in the fourth ODI, despite the mayhem caused by Jos Buttler in partnership with Bopara. They scored 300 runs, Kumar Sangakkara notching up a blissful century. It was a first at Lord’s for one of the great players of the modern era, his 112 coming from 104 balls, and although Buttler’s ton was the one of everyone’s lips, to me, Sanga’s was a hundred of pure class. His timing was second to none and some of his strokes simply oozed to the boundary. He was well supported by Dilshan, the pair now at the top of the run-scoring charts for the series.
Their bowling attack lost their way in the middle overs, but overall were quite impressive. Lasith Malinga’s four-over opening spell removed both Cook and Bell, a combination of the Slinger’s usual variety and some out-swingers. Kulasekara went for runs at the back-end of the innings but initially was superb, again proving useful of wickets that offer swing. The opening pair defended twenty in the last two overs with England on the rampage, and must be commended for that. To me, Manchester collapse aside, Sri Lanka have pulled up better as the series has progressed. Their success this year has been remarkable and with confidence sky-high, look dangerous in the limited overs format.
The weather forecast at Edgbaston is looking a little bit grim, a chance for showers in the evening a cause for concern. In a shortened fixture, one must look towards Sri Lanka as the stronger side despite falling prey to Duckworth/Lewis in the first ODI.
BEST: Top Sri Lanka Batsman, Mahela Jayawardene 4/1
This bet comes from left field, considering Mahela has failed to fire at all this series and hasn’t looked in the greatest touch. However, poor form has never stopped the run machine before and, having been around in 2006 and 2011, has vast experience with English pitches. I don’t expect England to keep him quiet for long.
VERDICT: Sri Lanka 19/20
As previously stated, overall I’ve been more impressed with the tourists and I foresee a momentous series win for the Sri Lankans. Expect them to carry that confidence through to the upcoming Test series and be a real threat to a fragile English side in desperate need of an ego boost.