Jayawardene hundred sends England packing
England 285 (Strauss 45, Bandara 2-43) lost to Sri Lanka 318 for 7 (Jayawardene 100, Maharoof 58*) by 33 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out - Sri Lanka
How they were out - England
Sri Lanka swept to another comprehensive victory in the fourth one-dayer at Old Trafford, with Mahela Jayawardene providing the backbone in a sparkling 100 to beat England by 33 runs. It wasn't the most polished of performances from Sri Lanka - but with England's bowling so short in confidence, and so generously wide, Sri Lanka were allowed once again to cruise home at a canter.
In spite of batting on one of the quicker Old Trafford pitches, England were never in with a shout of chasing down 319 - although Marcus Trescothick and Alastair Cook did, briefly, feign dominance at the crease with a 77-run opening stand, England's highest first-wicket stand of the series. Mahela Jayawardene spoke of the importance of one of his team making a big hundred in each match, something they have done with ease - Jayawardene in particular. England, on the other hand, have scored none.
Trescothick and Cook milked the wayward Sri Lanka bowling early on, though. Even Chaminda Vaas, playing in his 279th ODI, seemed to contract England's disease of bowling too wide but, to his credit, he came back excellently in his second spell. Cook - making his debut - looked increasingly confident and serene at the crease, as he has done in his brief Test career, but - like Trescothick - fell just when he was looking settled.
Thereafter, it was a procession. Ian Bell and his captain Andrew Strauss, batting at No. 4 to accommodate Cook, moved England into a position from which they could, in theory, have launched an assault...but not without their powerhouse, Kevin Pietersen, who missed the match through injury. Strauss was looking confident - comfortable, even - but he too somehow managed to get himself out in sight of a deserved fifty, falling to the impressive Tillakaratne Dilshan. Indeed, he and Chaminda Bandara spun a web around England in the middling overs, from which they couldn't escape. Once Strauss was dismissed, the game was as good as over for England.
In contrast to Strauss, Jayawardene had another memorable match. His magnificently fluid hundred - his eighth in a 217-match career and second this series - came at the perfect time for Sri Lanka, who lost Sanath Jayasuriya early on when he cut Steve Harmison straight to Jamie Dalrymple on the deep point boundary. The leading run-scorer in the series, Jayawardene was immediately into his stride. Driving with grace and flicking the bowlers with ease, his knock was arguably more fluent than his 66 at The Oval and unbeaten 126 at Chester-le-Street. There was a carefree attitude to his innings, almost an arrogance to his strokeplay; with the series in the bag, and a confidence-shot England bowling so wide, who could blame him?
Wides were the story of the day for England, as they have been all series. With three no-balls in addition to the 21 wides they dished up today, England gifted Sri Lanka an extra four overs - effectively bringing the margin of victory into single figures. An explanation to England's waywardness, then, but not an excuse.
With Jayawardene in full flow, a total of monstrous proportions was on the cards as he and Tharanga put on 100 in just 13 overs. However, the introduction of the increasingly mature Dalrymple stemmed the flow. His tidy off-spin accounted for Tharanga on 60 and, after Jayawardene brought up his second successive one-day hundred, he too fell to England's new spinner when he chipped one straight back to the bowler.
Sri Lanka, all of a sudden, were wobbling - not helped by a 20-minute rain break in the 30th over which rather put a brake on their momentum, but Farveez Maharoof and Malinga Bandara took the game away from England in spectacular fashion. In just 39 balls, the pair smashed 68 runs - fifty of which came from four hectic overs - to take Sri Lanka sailing past 300, the highest score in Old Trafford's history. The contrast in confidence between the two teams could hardly have been starker. Tail-end carnage ensued right to the end, when Maharoof smashed Kabir Ali - England's apparent death bowler par excellence - for two consecutive sixes over midwicket in a final over costing 20 runs.
Such lower-order frivolity is the envy of England's top-order, these days, never mind nine, ten and jack. Onwards, then, to Headingley for the final one-dayer on Saturday. Sri Lanka have been superb in each facet of their game this series, not to mention benefiting from a calm and resolute leader. They fully deserved to win today; a 5-0 whitewash would be the icing on the cake.
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo