England Fall To Nine-Run Defeat To Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka felt the full force of Alex Hales bat again but it was not quite enough for England to gain victory over the World Twenty20 champions at the Kia Oval because of the enduring unorthodox brilliance of Lasith Malinga.
It was an unbeaten 116 from Hales that enabled England to become the only team to defeat Sri Lanka in that world tournament in Bangladesh in March. He appeared poised to do the same in the first big match of the Peter Moores era.
Hales smashed 66 off 41 balls to lift England within reach of their formidable target of 184. But Malinga, still the best ‘death bowler’ in the world, deceived him with a perfect slower ball to earn Sri Lanka the spoils.
Even then, England came close to pulling off what would have been a significant win in their first Twenty20 international since defeat by Holland in Chittagong.
But an unbeaten 28 off 15 balls from Ravi Bopara — again batting too low in the order at seven — came just too late to avert a nine-run defeat.
It may have been the genius of Malinga, now the Sri Lankan Twenty20 captain, that gave his side the perfect start to their tour but England were left to rue a miserable error in the field which ultimately cost them dear.
Michael Carberry seemed to talk his way out of an international future when he blasted England for his treatment in Australia. He may wish they had taken offence rather than offered him another chance here, after this pivotal mishap.
England, with an inexperienced attack in the absence of Stuart Broad, still managed to keep the gifted Sri Lankan hitters in check for the bulk of their innings.
Yet, once Carberry shelled a dolly of a chance to reprieve Thisara Perera off his fellow debutant Harry Gurney, Sri Lanka managed to cut loose and hit 75 off their last six overs.
Gurney, whose elevation this year has owed something to injuries to fellow left-armers Reece Topley and David Willey, did little to impress on his one-day debut against Scotland in Aberdeen. Here he displayed intelligent variety in the face of threatening Sri Lankan hitting.
Gurney claimed a notable first scalp in international cricket when he bowled Tillakaratne Dilshan. He added another in Lahiru Thirimanne before that blunder which cost him a third wicket and, more importantly, cost England the match.
England had already put down two difficult catches — Chris Jordan and James Tredwell offering lives to Thirimanne — and seen Jos Buttler miss a difficult stumping before Perera hit Gurney straight up into the air.
It should have been a simple catch for any one of Gurney, Eoin Morgan or Carberry.
Sadly for England, it was the Hampshire man who took responsibility and duly let a regulation chance slip out of his grasp.
‘I was going for it initially and shouted for it,’ said Morgan.
‘But as I got closer Carbs was shouting his name so I stood as close to him as possible in case there was a rebound. People drop catches but it was costly.’ Carberry has proved fallible in the field during his short international career and this miss was particularly painful.
Perera, on 20 at the time, took full toll of the England bowling —smashing Jordan for 22 off the 19th over and powering Sri Lanka to 183 for seven with 49 off 20 balls.
The depth in the Sri Lankan batting, even without Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, was demonstrated by the fact that five different players hit sixes.
Perera smashed two of the six maximums that featured in the world champions’ innings before he was run out off the final ball.
The night was not to get any better for Carberry after he got the nod to open alongside Hales. He fell for seven as England began their attempt to stop Sri Lanka registering their ninth victory in 10 Twenty20 internationals in this country.