Kumar Sangakkara’s magnificent century was chiefly instrumental in getting Sri Lanka over the big score that England had put up, but he wouldn’t have been able to do that but for handy contributions all round by the other batsmen.
After the early dismissal of Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan played a waiting game as he got to within a shot of a half-century and then tried to get there with a big shot and holed out to long on, but he had done enough to stop England’s new ball bowlers.
Mahela Jayawardene has not been in the best of his exquisite touch for some time now, but he showed glimpses of it in another good partnership with Sangakkara and then came the masterstroke of the skipper Angelo Mathews who promoted Nuwan Kulasekara ahead of himself.
I confess that I thought it was not the best of moves and said so on air, since Matthews himself is one of the biggest hitters of the ball and being a better organised batsman than Kulasekara, would have had more correct responses against the classy England bowlers.
When the Lankans scored just 31 runs in their five overs of batting powerplay, it looked as if the move had not worked as Kulasekara could not get the ball off at all.
But suddenly, an over or two later, the ball began to hit the middle of the bat, and with England continuing to bowl to the arc of his bat swing, he began to clout the ball far and wide and got to his half century off just 30 deliveries. At the other end, Sangakkara was his usual calm, measured self and kept the score ticking along with some of the best driving seen for a long time.
His century must be one of the finest ever compiled in one-day cricket, coming under the circumstances that it did and the range of shots it produced.
The Lankans will have to have watch out against the Australians, who have had so many issues that they would want a win badly to take the focus away from all that and get it back on cricket.
The Australians are struggling without the guidance of their skipper Michael Clarke who is still injured and is looking doubtful for the Ashes series that follows.
The opening pair has been disturbed with Warner being suspended till the first Test of the Ashes series, and Australia’s bowlers also have not been at their best in the final overs of the innings.
The weather has been dodgy over the last few days and that could also impact how the teams go about their business, but if there is play, then it could be interesting since this game decides who is the other team that qualifies from their group.