England hold their nerve in tense win
England 208 for 7 (Root 48, Barrow 50, Rajaguru 2-39) beat Sri Lanka 207 for 7 (Gunathilleke 83, Best 2-23, Gregory 2-38) by three wickets
In keeping with the nature of the recent contests between these two sides, England Under-19 were made to work hard in another closely-fought encounter but held their nerve to defeat Sri Lanka Under-19 by three wickets with just four balls to spare at Fenner's and take a 1-0 lead in the five match one-day series.
England were well-placed at 190 for 4 in the 44th over, needing just 18 runs to win, but Alex Barrow's dismissal shortly after he had reached fifty sparked a nervous passage of play and with Sri Lanka's bowlers putting in a disciplined performance to keep the pressure on the batsmen two further wickets fell before Luke Wells and No. 9 David Payne sealed the win in the last over, bowled by left-arm seamer Chathura Peiris.
England captain Paul Best won the toss and elected to put the tourists in to bat and was rewarded in the fourth over when Rumesh Buddika was caught by Barrow off the bowling of Jacob Ball. Matthew Dunn had Yasoda Lanka caught behind to leave Sri Lanka struggling on 26 for 2 in the seventh over. Sri Lanka continued to lose wickets regularly and at 116 for 7, England looked firmly in control.
However an eighth wicket partnership of 91 between Dhanushka Gunathilleke and Sanitha de Mel helped Sri Lanka reach 207 for 7 from their 50 overs. Gunathilleke top scored, finishing unbeaten on 83 from 102 balls with de Mel adding 29 from 33 balls in support.
Needing to score at just over 4 runs an over for victory England's reply began well with Jack Manuel playing a typically aggressive innings to reach 23 off 17 balls before being bowled by de Mel. Joe Root's controlled 48 helped England past the 100 mark and Barrow and Luke Wells kept the scoreboard ticking over without taking unnecessary risks.
Even when Barrow was bowled by Buddika in the 44th over, leaving England on 190 for 5, the home side would have been confident of a comfortable victory. But with Sri Lanka showing great fight in the field the match went down to the wire before Wells, who finished unbeaten on 39, and Payne maintained their composure to steer England to their target of 208 with four balls to spare.
"We are delighted to be one up and are looking forward to resuming the ODI series at Arundel on Monday," said Best after the game. "Today's match was closer than it needed to be and we aim to be more disciplined and ruthless going forward."
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at Cricinfo in the UK