Kaluwitharana sentences England to 3-0 defeat
England's foot weary cricketers lost the final One-Day International of a three-match series by ten-wickets at the Sinhalese Sports Club today. Whilst they will be disappointed to have been outplayed by a slick Sri Lankan side during the past week, they will at least rest content in the knowledge that their defeat takes little away from a largely successful winter's work.
Time to come home
Sri Lanka know that they have merely taken the crumbs from the table. They wanted the Test series most, but will take pride nonetheless in the fact that they now resemble a well-oiled machine in one-day cricket with their free flowing batsmen, crafty bowlers, and cat-like fielders.
Duncan Fletcher admitted on Monday that England need to pay greater attention to their one-day cricket and plan their preparations more carefully in the future. Their performance today highlighted the urgency of that situation. This winter they have lost six out of the eight ODI played and they recorded the three lowest totals against Sri Lanka in their 23-match history. Worse still, today was the first time that England have lost by ten-wickets in their 325 game history.
Graham Thorpe was frank afterwards: "There were some tired legs out there but they were more skilful than us in the one-day game. It was really in the batting that we failed and that is something that we will have to have a hard look at.
"Although we have seen an upturn in our fortunes in Test cricket it is crystal clear where we stand in one-day cricket at the moment," he said. "On the positive side we have 18-months till the World Cup and you can quickly improve in one-day cricket."
Kaluwitharana and Atapattu - brilliant partnership
The pitches in these three games may not have been ideal with their slow pace and variable bounce, but there can be little excuse for being bowled out for 165 at the normally high scoring Sinhalese Sports Club. Four batsmen betrayed their understandable tiredness by chopping onto their stumps and three were caught in the deep as they vainly tried to invigorate the pedestrian scoring rate. Only Graham Thorpe had due cause to feel genuinely unlucky, as a diving Kumar Sangakkara brilliantly caught him in the gully.
Sri Lanka then thrilled the crowd as they chugged along at nearly five runs per over and proved that there were no horrors in the pitch. When Darren Gough failed to make a his now customary breakthrough in his four over opening burst and the normally miserly Alan Mullally conceded 24 runs in his first three overs, the writing was on the wall.
Marvan Atapattu, who opened and captained in the absence of the injured Sanath Jayasuriya, played positively in his classically high elbowed way, as he scored an undefeated half-century, but it was the beaming Romesh Kaluwitharana, who stole the show with his second One-Day International century.
Kaluwitharana has faced a difficult year and was recently dropped from the Test team after a lean sequence with the bat in Test cricket. Although he top scored in the five-match ODI series in the recent tour of South Africa, he only played one game in the following tour to New Zealand and needed to make a significant score here to safeguard his place for Sharjah.
He has come along way from the wild pinch hitter that swung his bat merrily through the 1996 World Cup and now boasts an excellent technique. He played shots all round the wicket this afternoon and was ruthless whenever the English bowlers erred in their length. He hit 20 boundaries in all and faced just 117 balls for his 102 runs.
Speaking afterwards his broad smile said it all: "This has come at the right time for me. I needed a big score, as my confidence has been a little low recently."
Earlier in the day England had made an unhappy start after losing the toss. They failed to score a run in the first three overs and then lost the wickets of Stewart, Trescothick, Knight and Thorpe to slip to 39 for four in the 14th over.
Graeme Hick gave the innings some respectability with an arduous 47 off 114 balls that left him so exhausted that he needed a runner. He added 39 with Flintoff before the Lancastrian holed out at mid-wicket and 47 with Mark Ealham, who played instead of Andrew Caddick. Craig White broke an astonishing sequence of five consecutive noughts in one-day cricket this winter with four runs. It was slow going, however, for the English batsmen, who never broke the shackles of the accurate Sri Lankan bowlers.