England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Edgbaston June 3, 2014

Emboldened Sri Lanka keep their cool

It may have been tempting for Sri Lanka to hide Sachithra Senanayake in this match, in hope the furore would blow over. But emboldened by the added pressure instead, they made his role in the match more prominent

As the Edgbaston crowd's displeasure eddied around the ground late in England's innings, Sri Lanka were still, at the centre of the whirlpool. Spectators had been incensed by Sachithra Senanayake's run out of Jos Buttler - a Mankad which, upon the umpire's inquiry, Angelo Mathews did not hesitate to uphold. The England innings was already creaking at 199 for 7, but as the boos rang around the ground, Sri Lanka did not delay delivering the final blows. With 220 to chase, this would be their game to lose.

It was a brief passage of play, but one which illustrated an unwavering focus that has become a theme of this Sri Lanka team's cricket, particularly in 2014. They had had one horror day at Sharjah in January, but quickly shed the trauma of that defeat to trounce Bangladesh across all formats.

An unbeaten Asia Cup campaign came as the annual contracts tussle with the board began to bubble up. That saga erupted before the World T20, which was won with contracts unsigned, and administrators engaged in disputes with senior players. Mahela Jayawardene, the man who was most visibly shaken by the heated exchanges with SLC, was the team's lead scorer in that campaign.

Before the deciding ODI in Birmingham, Sachithra Senanayake had his action reported. "We are like family," Mathews had said earlier in the series, and even if things are not quite as rosy as that cliché makes out, this Sri Lanka team is knit tighter than most international sides. The doubt cast over a team-mate's bowling action will have reverberated around the dressing room.

Here, the players had support from the establishment back home. SLC expressed surprise in their response to the match officials' report on Senanayake, and the implications of that release were clear; "Why has he been reported only now, just before a must-win match in England?" Chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya also lent his support to Senanayake in public. At the toss, Mathews hinted at the collective sense of frustration in the camp. "When we travel to certain parts of the world, it happens," he said.

It may have been tempting for Sri Lanka to hide Senanayake in this match, in hope the furore would blow over. But emboldened by the added pressure instead, they made his role in the match more prominent. He came on in the sixth over of the innings - earlier than he had been on at any stage in the series - and delivered parsimony and menace, taking the wicket of Alastair Cook and conceding 36 from his ten overs. The picture of Arjuna Ranatunga shaking his finger at the umpires, when Murali was called for throwing in 1999, made the rounds on Twitter.

"The report was a big motivational factor for us," Jayawardene said. "Sachi is a fantastic young player in the group. He's very cheerful and keeps everyone happy. So we had a special meeting for Sach last night. We had a good dinner out, just for him. We wanted to make sure that he feels comfortable with all of us and as a team we'll walk through."

Small wonder then, that Senanayake had the moxie to be the man who removed the bails when Buttler took an unfair head-start on a run - however unintentionally. Mathews and Jayawardene said they had observed Buttler's walking start at Lord's as well, and were compelled to take action after repeated warnings.

Sri Lanka may be among the younger teams in top-flight cricket, but they know they play a highly competitive, professional sport. The ECB left the team in no doubt of that fact, when they lured their head coach to swap sides, weeks ahead of this tour.

Sri Lanka had a less convincing outing with the bat, but as has so often been the case, their bowlers had done enough to make victory manageable. Several England players, led by Buttler, spoke heated words to Mathews, during his time at the crease, and Mathews let the spray fall flat to the turf. His characteristically unruffled 42 sealed the series.

Sri Lanka move to the Tests now, unfancied and outgunned, but buoyed by confidence and propelled by the fire of grievance. As Kumar Sangakkara said after the World T20 win, perhaps upheaval suits this team. England players, like many of their supporters, made their indignation known to Sri Lanka at Edgbaston, but perhaps they would be wise not to irk the visitors further.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • udendra on June 5, 2014, 6:02 GMT

    For some reason, Sri Lankans up their game when put under pressure by internal or external factors. Has been the same in the past as well.

  • Lalindra on June 4, 2014, 16:12 GMT

    Good reply from Angelo, kudos for standing by his ground, Butler was warned in the previous match and twice in this match and within the confines of the cricketing rules and cricketing spirit it's justifiable. Hence, Butler was trying to take undue Advantage and in the end had to a pay hefty price for it.

    "the ICC changed its playing conditions in 2011 to allow bowlers to run out a batsman backing up at any point prior to releasing the ball, rather than before entering his delivery stride, as the MCC Laws state."

    While the MCC (Law 42.15) states that "The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible."

    But the ICC's playing regulation 42.11, which replaces Law 42.15 in international cricket, states: "The bowler is permitte

  • Janaka on June 4, 2014, 14:08 GMT

    Hats off not only to Sachi, Mathews, Mahela, Dillie and all Sri Lankan players, but also to Andrew, for being so brave! Huge respect for you guys!

  • xxxxx on June 4, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    What has been forgotten in the rush, by some, to play the victim over this run out has been the absolute Mahela masterclass in how to turn a very tricky ODI situation under adverse conditions into a winning one.

    Do not be in a rush to retire your champions - they do not come along every day.

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    All that happened in Srilankan cricket over the last few months had only brought the players more close to each other, and hence we see the captain and other players support Sachitra when he needed it most.

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2014, 8:46 GMT

    I'm proud to be a Sri Lankan, we never let down our players and we'll be right behind with them to share it. It's because of the sprite shown by the team on and out the field (even though not healthy relationship with management they play for the country). The players celebrate each other's success and backup each in a bad performance or criticized. Specially going to a series decider they never let down Sena and go under pressure instead they build more confidence by bringing him to attach so early than usual. This is a real characteristic build by the Sri Lankan team in the past decade. It doesn't come from nowhere but it earn by each game. If giving example, the best is the fighting sprite till the last ball and as individual the honesty as they hardly wait for the umpires call unlike Joe Root ho wait for umpire's call even after knowing hit the glove, is it a good sprit of cricket???

  • MAHENDRA on June 4, 2014, 8:22 GMT

    Lahiru should give number 5 spot to bat. He managed the difficult situation with big match player Mahela.

  • Darsh on June 4, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    what i like about lions is they kept their cool despite typical English abusive act in the field from English players. Teams which play much much better cricket than them don't act like this. Full team has spoiled the bit of reputation they had & high time to come out from this EGO. you broke the rules, just accept it rather looking for lame excuses to cover up the defeat. This is what I love about Asians, they are always on the top & fearless. RESPECT TO ASIANS!!!

  • Android on June 4, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    hats off to Mathews n co for standing tall.. proud of u lions..

  • Nick on June 4, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    Superb ODI series win fo SL. Good to see Mahela and Thirimanne amongst the runs in the crucial game and once again Mathews showing just what a good captain and finisher he is. Fine bowling from Malinga and Senanayake. Chathuranga, who played every game in SLs Asia Cup win, can count himsellf unlucky not to get a run in this series - his turn will come when South Africa tours SL in July.

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