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July 2, 2006
This was a triumph for Sri Lanka, led by their inspirational captain Mahela Jayawardene. They dominated each match, cumulating in their jaw-dropping run chase at Headingley. Experienced players came to the fore and some of the youngsters enhanced their World Cup claims. Here's how the 5-0 victors rated.
It couldn't have gone any better. A man who began the tour as a replacement captain for the injured Marvan Atapattu marshaled his team triumphantly through the one-day series with a calmness and ruthlessness that hadn't previous been witnessed. His batting was a revelation - not that he scored runs, his quality is undeniable - it was how he scored them. Elevated to No. 3 he exploited the fielding restrictions with clean, powerful strokeplay and his calculated assaults on Sajid Mahmood at The Oval and Chester-le-Street virtually sealed the series. It was fitting that he was at the crease when the thunderous chase in the final match was completed. The man-of-the-series award was snatched away at the last minute.
A batting revelation and formed an opening partnership with Jayasuriya that can carry Sri Lanka through the World Cup - and Tharanga was starting to bat like his fellow opener towards the end of the series with an array of dashing shots at Headingley. It was his Lord's century, though, that played the key role in the series, setting up Sri Lanka for an opening victory from which they never looked back. Tharanga is strong through the covers and backward point but is vulnerable against the short ball although only Harmison had the pace to trouble him in this series.
Rekindled memories of his glory days a decade ago at the 1996 World Cup with two destructive centuries and the man-of-the-series award. His Headingley onslaught will live long in the memory of those who weren't watching the football - and that includes England's bowlers. He must of thought his birthday and Christmas had been rolled into one as he was fed a diet of wide, short balls and he ensured each one was powerfully dealt with. He seems a revitalised player and brings valuable experience for Jayawardene, while his nagging left-arm spin is still proving a nightmare for batsmen to dominate. Will always have his fair share of failures but when he fires, stand back.
Lively behind the stumps, dependable in front of them. Sangakkara was streets ahead of his opposite number, Jones, with both bat and gloves. Two elegant half-centuries supplemented the runs from the top three and he was part of an important stand with Jayawardene at The Oval. His keeping, standing up to the medium-pacers, was a key part in stopping the likes of Trescothick and Pietersen charging down the track and he was always quick with a word to the batsman. An ideal vice-captain for Jayawardene and cheerleader for the team.
If Tharanga was Sri Lanka's batting find, the bowling honour goes to Malinga. For all the talk about England's inexperience, Malinga had just eight ODIs under his belt before this tour but performed liked a reliable old pro with the new ball. His first spell at Lord's - six overs for 11 - set the tone and he was rarely taken apart despite the fielding restrictions. At the start of an innings he wasn't afraid to test the middle of the pitch - often to the discomfort of England's batsmen - then at the death he reverted to yorker mode and, at nearly 90mph, they weren't easy to score off.
As was highlighted in the Test series he is no longer the force he was with the new ball but the one-day game doesn't expose the limitations as harshly. He invariably swung the new ball, ensuring England didn't enjoy many flying starts and after his first few overs would operate with Sangakkara up to the stumps, with a similar suffocating effect that Jack Russell had for Gloucestershire. Vaas now tends to bowl most of his overs upfront, but if the ball reverse-swings he is still one of the best at finding it.
Made his most telling contribution at Old Trafford when he laid into the final overs of the innings and crashed 58 off 50 balls. But the notable feature of the innings was how he calmly responded to a fall of quick wickets by playing himself in before exploding. His bowling struggled to make a real impact and he is more of a fill-in that front-line option for Jayawardene.
Given his chance when Muttiah Muralitharan flew home, Bandara enhanced his reputation as a very handy utility player. He doesn't turn the ball a great deal but varies his pace intelligently and proved hard to score off in the middle overs with the field set back. Gave a glimpse of his batting potential with some lusty blows at Old Trafford and will be an important part of the squad in the Caribbean.
Didn't show anything near his best with the bat - but he didn't need to with the performances of the top four. However, at some point Sri Lanka will need his skills as a rebuilder and a finisher while the middle order is vulnerable if he doesn't perform. He picks up his marks for tidy offspin, which was vital in tying England down - especially at Old Trafford - and picking up key wickets - such as Marcus Trescothick at Lord's. Sharp in the field.
Just two matches before flying home to his ill son and wasn't quite on top of his game. The pressure wasn't really on when he was thrown the ball - England's top order having been under pressure - and he was milked for five-an-over without too many alarms. It says plenty about this Sri Lankan team that they performed so well without a major show from their star man.
Started England's slide at Lord's with three wickets in his first spell but faded once an ankle injury forced him out of the second match. His wickets came at nearly seven runs an over and he was often targeted by the batsmen to increase the rate. However he does possess a clever slower-ball. His fielding is an issue and by the end of the series Jayawardene was struggling to hide him.
There was much discussion after Arnold was `rested' during the last home season in Sri Lanka despite showing impressive form in Australia. There was no such surprise when he was left out of the final match in England. In three innings his top score was eight and his fielding was starting to show his age. Doesn't seem to bowl anymore with Dilshan around and another World Cup campaign is drifting away.
Very limited chance to show what he could go and played a limp pull at Lord's when he had the opportunity to bat for a few overs. However, he is highly regarded by some good judges and will be fighting for a middle-order slot. His fielding was a little hit-and-miss with electric stops mixed with fumbles in the outfield.
One appearance; five expensive overs.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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