Shambolic England slip to eight-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka
England’s excruciating World Cup defence was all but over after yet another shambolic defeat, this time against a Sri Lanka side led by their former head coach Chris Silverwood.
The 2019 champions turned in a meek, error-strewn performance with the bat, blown away for just 156 in Bengaluru, and barely fared any better with the ball as their opponents breezed home by eight wickets.
Jos Buttler’s side have now lost four of their five games by heavy margins – beaten by New Zealand, Afghanistan, South Africa and now Sri Lanka – and can start booking an early trip home despite having four fixtures still to play in a torturous group stage.
There was an extra layer to their latest humbling given Silverwood’s presence in blue and gold. He served as England’s bowling coach when they lifted the trophy four years ago and was handpicked to take over the top job from Trevor Bayliss soon after.
Silverwood was sacked after a dire Ashes campaign in 2021/22 and now, rather than guiding his country through this tournament as he once expected, he has effectively sealed their departure from it.
A scrappy 43 from Ben Stokes was the best England could muster and that was promptly put in perspective as Pathum Nissanka (77 not out) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (65no) peeled off an effortless century stand in response.
In all England used just 33.2 overs in the first innings and 25.4 in the second, a damning indictment on all fronts.
The day started with the latest confusing selection from England, who dropped rising star Harry Brook and rookie seamer Gus Atkinson as they fielded a side comprised entirely of thirtysomethings for the first time ever in ODI cricket.
It proved a thoroughly misguided decision from a team long past its peak. With a dominant, table-topping India up next in Lucknow, it is hard to see what they do next.
Things began with a brief burst of positivity, openers Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow taming the new ball sufficiently to take 45 from the first 39 deliveries, with nine boundaries.
But the growing optimism was shattered by the introduction of old foe Angelo Mathews, called up as an injury replacement just a couple of days ago and embarking on his first ODI spell in three-and-a-half years.
It took the 36-year-old just three deliveries to get back in the groove, Malan caught behind for 28 chasing a cutter. Mathews, who starred when Sri Lanka beat England at Headingley in the 2019 group stages, was involved again in the crucial dismissal of Joe Root.
Root had just three to his name when he chopped to point and set off for a single, turning on his heels once Bairstow dug his in at the non-striker’s end. Mathews picked up and threw in one swift movement, leaving Kusal Mendis to obliterate the stumps as Root dived in vain.
The errors kept coming, Bairstow reaching 30 before a cross-batted swat at Kasun Rajitha plonked straight to mid-on. Stokes dug a trench as he tried to halt the Sri Lankan momentum, but his rearguard was undermined as Lahiru Kumara had Buttler flashing to slip and Liam Livingstone lbw.
With just 17 overs down they were 85 for five and circling the drain. Stokes went on the attack, muscling a handful of boundaries despite struggling for timing, but lost two more partners as Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes spoon-fed catches to backward point.
When Stokes dragged a pull down deep-midwicket’s throat, England’s hopes of an unlikely revival went with him, but there was another nadir still to come.
Adil Rashid was backing up at the bowler’s end when Mendis took a Maheesh Theekshana wide down the leg side, spotted the chance of an opportunistic dismissal and threw down the stumps from 25 yards.
It was an absurd way to go and entirely in keeping with England’s demeanour over the past month. Theekshana had Wood stumped to complete the job, putting Sri Lanka in complete control.
David Willey had hit England’s only six of the innings and finished not out on the ground he calls home with Royal Challengers Bangalore and he started gamely with the ball too.
The left-armer had Kusal Perera caught off a leading edge with his third ball and added the dangerous Mendis, who chipped a leg-stump delivery high in the sky towards Buttler.
At 23 for two there was a tiny opening, but Samarawickrama and Nissanka closed it emphatically. They knocked off the runs in a composed manner, even soaking up a rapid spell that touched 94mph from Wood.
The pair stroked the ball around with minimal fuss as the bowlers went through the motions, with Nissanka sealing victory in style by slamming the expensive Rashid for a big six over long-on to put England out of their misery.
They are now on course for a World Cup campaign even worse than their low ebb of 2015, a fate barely imaginable when Eoin Morgan lifted the trophy at Lord’s in heady scenes four years later.
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