England seal series in thrilling finale
England 268 for 9 (Trott 72, Morgan 57, Randiv 5-42) beat Sri Lanka 252 (Mathews 62, Chandimal 54, Bresnan 3-49) by 16 runs
Four one-sided games preceded this match at Old Trafford, but with the series at stake, England and Sri Lanka traded blows in a see-sawing encounter that had no clear winner until the closing minutes of the match. England prevailed by 16 runs in a thrilling finale to Sri Lanka's tour, the bowling attack operating as a unit to defend 268 as the visitors were dismissed for 252 in the penultimate over.
Two fluent partnerships, first between Alastair Cook and Craig Kieswetter, then from Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan, bookended by clutches of wickets, had carried England's innings. However, offspinner Suraj Randiv helped himself to 5 for 42 to spark a collapse of 6 for 40 as the hosts slipped after being well-positioned to score over 300.
Sri Lanka, who showed their vulnerability against the new ball at The Oval, when they stumbled to 15 for 4, and Trent Bridge, when the damage was 20 for 4, once again struggled first up. They needed two fighting stands of their own: the first a counter-attacking 94 between Dinesh Chandimal and Kumar Sangakkara, and the second, a backs-to-the-wall 102 between Angelo Mathews and Jeevan Mendis to get close before Jade Dernbach's two wickets in consecutive balls sealed the result.
Tim Bresnan had done the early damage to Sri Lanka, catching the edge of debutant Dimuth Karunaratne's bat before Tillakaratne Dilshan, who has managed just 17 runs in five innings since coming back from a fractured thumb, hooked him straight to Dernbach at fine leg. Sri Lanka were wobbling at 12 for 2 and soon lost Mahela Jayawardene, who had been given a reprieve when he was badly dropped by Dernbach but chipped straight to Alastair Cook at mid-off not long afterwards.
With England surging, Chandimal, who hit a match-winning - and controversial - century at Lord's, provided a stylish counterpunch, displaying all the temerity of youth in a series of crisply-hit strokes, stepping out to thrash mighty sixes off both Bresnan and Swann. With Sangakkara ticking along in unpretentious style at the other end, Sri Lanka's chase was put back on track.
Chandimal eventually tried one shot too many, however, and was beaten in the flight by Swann and stumped for a 64-ball 54. When Sangakkara chopped the impressive Bresnan onto his stumps to be out for 48, Sri Lanka were 131 for 5 in the 30th over and England appeared to have complete control.
Mathews and Mendis slowly pulled their side out of the mire, and Sri Lanka needed 116 from 18 overs when the batting Powerplay was taken. The batsmen managed to take a boundary from all but one of the Powerplay overs, milking 37 with the field restrictions in place and as they found fluency, the pressure was back on England.
Mathews took their stand past 100 with a firm clip to the wide long-on boundary but Pietersen then kept his nerve to hold a good catch running in from the midwicket boundary - and looking into the sun - to get rid of Mendis for a career-best 48. It was now Sri Lanka's turn to panic; Nuwan Kulasekara and Randiv falling in consecutive deliveries as they stumbled to 246 for 8.
Unbelievably, Lasith Malinga strode to the crease and charged down the track to mow the first ball he faced high over long-on for six and the match hung in the balance once more. Cook tossed the ball to Dernbach for the 49th over, with 17 needed, and a contest that could have gone to the wire came to an abrupt end as he deceived Mathews with a slower one that took the leading edge and looped to point. Next ball he fired a searing yorker at the base of Malinga's stumps to spark frenzied celebrations.
There had been a suspicion before the game that this could be a low-scoring encounter as this was the first international match at Old Trafford since the pitch was rotated 90 degrees. What was once the best strip in the country had now lost much of its pace and bounce, but Kieswetter and Cook showed that a hard new ball could still bring runs as the first Powerplay brought no less than 75 runs, 38 of them in boundaries.
England looked to press home their advantage by taking the batting Powerplay in the 13th over after Sri Lanka had set the field back in defence, but it was the Sri Lankans who profited from the restrictions as Cook ran past a fizzing Randiv offspinner to be stumped for 31. Dhammika Prasad removed Kieswetter and Pietersen in quick succession as England lost 3 for 10 in 19 deliveries, but Trott and Morgan settled quickly and complemented each other well in their contrasting styles to keep England on course for a challenging total.
They didn't score many boundaries - England only hit five after the ninth over - but both rotated the strike with ease; Trott reaching a 63-ball fifty and Morgan following him to the landmark soon after, from 54 deliveries. A total of over 300 looked a given, but Dilshan got the vital breakthrough when Morgan was beaten by flight and spin to be stumped for 57.
That opened up England's middle order, and a succession of batsmen fell trying to force the pace before they had been given a chance to adjust to the variable pitch. Randiv bowled with exceptional control as the batsmen tried to get after him, removing Ian Bell and Trott - via a fortuitous inside edge that rolled back onto the stumps, and had his fourth and fifth wickets in the space of three deliveries as Samit Patel and Tim Bresnan both fell to failed slogs.
There was a feeling that England had wasted an opportunity when a much more substantial total had loomed, but the good work of the bowlers powered them to a rousing win to extend their successful summer.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo