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July 1, 2006
Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga led Sri Lanka to a quite brilliant eight-wicket win in the final one-dayer against England at Headingley to secure the most comprehensive of whitewashes, taking the series 5-0 - with more than 12 overs to spare.
Though they won the series over a week ago, the method and destruction with which Sri Lanka's batsmen chased down 322 was a spectacle of remarkable audacity, self-belief and skill. Jayasuriya, of course, has been doing this for years but even he, the wise old man of Sri Lanka's side, looked over the moon at his 72-ball hundred and celebrated with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm as a young whippersnapper.
It all happened so fast, too. Despite the pitch at Headingley being a treat to bat on - flat, lifeless, straw-coloured on a lovely warm day - it was the unabashed ferocity of Jayasuriya and Tharanga which took the game away so quickly from England. The carnage began as early as the second ball of Sri Lanka's reply, as Kabir Ali darted one down the legside for four leg-byes, followed by another legside gift which Jayasuriya whipped away for four more. 10 runs conceded from the first over. Opening with Ali at the other end was Tim Bresnan and, if the paying public were surprised at the delayed introduction of Steve Harmison, Sri Lanka were gleeful: they smashed through cover; cut past point; cut over the slips and mowed through point. Four brilliant fours and a second over costing 18 runs.
Such frenzied starts to one-day innings are common; to continue the same wild strokeplay, over 20 or 30 overs, is a rare treat. Indeed, the shots played by both batsmen were not that outlandish, carefree, or fortunate. It was pure skill, demonstrated so aptly when Harmison was flicked effortlessly by Jayasuriya into the stands; a short-arm jab off his hips, and the ball disappeared into the fragmented, shocked crowd.
Having won all four matches so far this series, the temptation, or tendency, for Sri Lanka to take their foot off England's throat must have been great. And indeed there were signs in the field, earlier in the day, that the visitors' enthusiasm and energy levels were perhaps on the wane. No such evidence was seen from the batsmen as Sri Lanka raced to fifty in just the fourth over. As a comparison, after four overs England had made just two.
Though the world has been witness to Jayasuriya's brilliance for a decade or more, Tharanga is a newcomer - yet throughout this series, he has dominated England's attack without fear. He took particular fancy to Liam Plunkett, crashing him for two fours and flicking a wide ball for a stunning six. It took Jayasuriya just 72 deliveries to register his second one-day hundred of the series; his 21st in all, the best of the summer and quite possibly the finest one-day hundred at Headingley.
As the 200 partnership was brought up, the England captain Andrew Strauss had little option but to shake his head and smile at the violence on display. Trailing Jayasuriya slightly, Tharanga joined his senior partner to bring up his second (and best) hundred of the series. He looked out of sorts earlier in the tour, and what a turnaround it has been not only for him but for Sri Lanka.
Talking of turnarounds, earlier it appeared England might have reached a fork in the road when they won the toss and chose to bat. They rollicked along - or so it appeared, before Sri Lanka's batsmen had a go. It was perhaps inevitable that Marcus Trescothick would be the man to score England's first hundred this series and his excellent 121 set England up to a very respectable 321 - comfortably their best total this summer. Despite some slick bowling from Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga in the first 10 overs of England's innings, their fielders let themselves down - for the first time this series. Once Trescothick had negotiated the early movement on offer, his trademark drives and punchy lofts over the infield were soon finding their way over the boundaries. Scorching drives and cuts past point which were snaffled by the Sri Lankan fielders in the previous four one-dayers were today finding their way past; it wasn't the most polished of performances.
Malinga then mopped up England's tail in a superb spell of death-bowling - firing in yorkers and rarely straying down the legside - which earned him the impressive figures of 4 for 44 from his ten overs.
Yet the game was as good as won for Sri Lanka come the 10th over, with Jayasuriya skipping down the wicket to the seamers; toying with every bowler; smashing bowlers over their heads and, well, wherever he chose. It was Jayasuriya at his best, no doubt, but was one-day batting at its most awe-inspiring. That he overshadowed Tharanga, who played sublimely for his 109, said rather a lot about the character of a man who refuses to be beaten, a trait also becoming of Sri Lanka.
That both openers fell in the dying moments was of little consequence. It's a decade since they last won the World Cup and, with six months until the Caribbean hosts the next tournament, they are rather handily placed.
Upul Tharanga c&b Dalrymple 109 (286 for 1)
Mis-timed chip back to the bowler
Sanath Jayasuriya c Strauss b Solanki 152 (289 for 2)
Cut hard to point, great diving catch
Alastair Cook c Jayawardene b Maharoof 41 (82 for 1)
Leaning back, slapped to cover, indecisive shot
Ian Bell c Sangakkara b Fernando 18 (157 for 2)
Slower ball, attempted to cut past wicketkeeper, wonderful catch
Andrew Strauss c Sangakkara b Malinga 26 (225 for 3)
Indecisive push at outswinger
Marcus Trescothick b Jayasuriya 121 (233 for 4)
Arm ball, hurried onto the batsman
Jamie Dalrymple lbw Malinga 30 (295 for 5)
Got his feet in a tangle to an exocet
Geraint Jones lbw Malinga 2 (304 for 6)
Came down track, rapped on pad
Tim Bresnan b Malinga 4 (308 for 7)
Looked to clip fine; ball crashed into middle and leg
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