ICC Champions Trophy, Johannesburg: England 213-4 (45 ovs) beat Sri Lanka 212 (47.3 ovs) by six wickets Match scorecard
In his biggest match yet, Eoin Morgan stood up to the challenge
By Oliver Brett
England caused a ripple at the ICC Champions Trophy by comfortably beating the strongly-fancied Sri Lankans.
They won the toss and quickly reduced their opponents to 17-4 on a lively Johannesburg wicket, only to see Sri Lanka recover and be all out for 212.
That looked a tricky target, especially when England hit trouble on 19-2.
But Eoin Morgan's busy unbeaten 62, on the back of handy knocks from Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah, saw them win by six wickets in exactly 45 overs.
While England could draw on five seam-bowling options in conditions that always gave encouragement to the faster bowlers, Sri Lanka were not prepared to drop one of their two spinners - and thus had just three seamers to call on.
That proved a critical tactical error, because this was like an English greentop in April, and did not assist the spinners at all.
Sri Lanka's flagship bowler Muttiah Muralitharan was milked for 60 runs from his 10 overs, supplying just one wicket, while their new mystery bowler, Ajantha Mendis, was just as innocuous.
Paul Collingwood produced the initial impetus for England
The result left England as the only team in Group B with an unbeaten record, and if they win one of their remaining round-robin matches, against New Zealand and South Africa, they will have a strong chance of reaching a surprise semi-final berth.
Andrew Strauss's team had been roundly written off, having been thrashed 6-1 by Australia in the past month.
But one thing that has gone well for Strauss is the coin toss, and his luck again as he invited Sri Lanka, easy conquerors of South Africa in the tournament opener, to bat first.
That was no surprise given the green conditions in what is effectively the pre-season on the Highveld, with pace and seam movement aplenty at the Wanderers.
Strauss had also played in the victory over South Africa on the same ground four and a half years ago. Back then, the home team's top four all departed for single-figure scores - and it was the same on Friday with Sri Lanka.
Graham Onions and James Anderson each took two of them - and all four Sri Lankans were removed with good-length deliveries.
Sanath Jayasuriya feathered an edge behind, Tillakaratne Dilshan speared a catch to backward-point, Mahela Jayawardene was lbw and Kumar Sangakkara edged a wide one to slip.
But the excitement seemed to get to an England side severely lacking in confidence, and with the honourable exception of Anderson they began to explore areas of the pitch that did not require probing.
Short balls had not threatened to take wickets, and yet Onions, Stuart Broad and Luke Wright insisted on banging the ball in. Inexcusably, 21 runs were tossed away in wides, and Graeme Swann proved easy pickings for a Sri Lankan middle order well versed in playing spin.
Sri Lanka's oft-maligned middle order cashed in well. Thilina Kandamby (53) and Angelo Mathews (52) were the main contributors after Thilan Samaraweera - the only one of the trio with much experience of facing English seamers - began the fightback with some confident boundary-striking off Broad and Onions.
When he finally fell for 30, having added 44 with the impressive left-hander Kandamby, Sri Lanka's next wicket pair - Kandamby and Mathews - piled up 82.
Despite the helpful conditions, England had toiled away for more than 32 overs in taking wickets five and six.
All of which made it look curiously over-generous of Strauss to call back Mathews after the batsman had turned blind scampering for a second run, collided with the bowler Onions and found himself short of his crease by yards when the throw from the deep made its way back to Matt Prior.
But he was back in the pavilion for good soon afterwards having edged Wright to Prior, a dismissal which unleashed the ever-entertaining Muralitharan into a powerplay.
He hammered two fours and a six as Sri Lanka scraped past 200, with Broad picking up a couple of wickets to finish with 3-49 and the excellent Anderson (3-20) having last man Mendis well caught by Strauss at slip.
Given that this was a Friday night in South Africa's largest city, the attendance was pitiful - a stark reminder to the ICC that 50-over cricket is losing its lustre.
James Anderson took 3-20 in 9.3 overs of high-class bowling
And the spectators had to drag on their thickest blankets as the mercury plunged for England's floodlit chase.
It began poorly, with the in-form Strauss pulling Nuwan Kulasekara straight to square-leg soon after the same bowler had removed Joe Denly lbw.
Collingwood came to the crease with the score 19-2 in the eighth over and proceeded to hit a six and four fours in the space of two overs.
With Shah the usual fretful bag of nerves at the other end, England looked to be relying heavily on Collingwood at this point. So things appeared to be looking up when the Durham man pulled Malinga for two sixes to move to 46.
But the Sri Lankan quick eventually took revenge when Collingwood chopped onto his stumps, leaving the Middlesex pairing of Shah and Morgan to take on the fight with 131 still wanted and 31 overs remaining.
Morgan was industrious from the off, and once he settled was able to knock singles around at will against the spinners.
Shah continued in first gear for a while but when Kulasekara returned he picked him up over square leg for a six and added a couple of boundaries off Muralitharan.
Suddenly, England were just 55 runs away from their target with more than 15 overs left, whereupon a Sri Lanka spinner - Muralitharan - finally got a ball to grip and turn enough to take a wicket, Shah edging behind to fall for 44.
Morgan was becalmed for a while, but then hit Kulasekara inches over mid-off to reach his fifty while Prior put some iffy form behind him to play some pleasing shots and finish unbeaten on 28.
England never took their batting powerplay, in the end the chase proved that easy - and it was a remarkable sight indeed for anyone who had seen their desperate batting performances against Australia.
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