England v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group A, The Oval

Sangakkara's stunning hundred keeps Sri Lanka alive

The Report by David Hopps

June 13, 2013

Comments: 234 | Text size: A | A

Sri Lanka 297 for 3 (Sangakkara 134*, Kulasekara 58*) beat England 293 for 7 (Trott 76, Root 68, Cook 59,) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Kumar Sangakkara lofts down the ground during his unbeaten hundred, England v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group A, The Oval, June 13, 2013
Kumar Sangakkara played one of his finest one-day innings to keep Sri Lanka in the tournament © Getty Images

Kumar Sangakkara has never been part of a Sri Lanka team winning a major ICC one-day trophy outright. Neither have the other outstanding players of this Sri Lanka era - Mahela Jayawardene, Lasith Malinga or Tillakaratne Dilshan. But they will believe there is still time after Sangakkara's magnificent unbeaten 134 from 135 balls pulled off an improbable run chase against England by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare at The Oval.

Only India had ever pulled off such a daunting target on this ground and, if Sri Lanka had failed to hit such heights, they would have been eliminated. But, as the clouds cleared, the pitch was encouraging and Sangakkara, driven by the vision that his redoubtable career need not go unrewarded, summoned a shrewd and inspired response.

England now face New Zealand in Cardiff in their final match on Sunday and Sri Lanka are pitted against Australia at The Oval the following day with Group A in the balance.

ODI batting England style, a methodical, statistically-justified policy that involves stripping as much risk out of the game as possible, setting up an appropriate base and then staking much on havoc at the end had been found wanting, and as Sangakkara drove Sri Lanka towards victory, its chief architect, Jonathan Trott, who had made 76 from 87 balls in inimitable style, watched in forlorn mood from the dressing room, ice pack pressed to a strained thigh.

Sangakkara marshalled Sri Lanka's response superbly despite the initially distracting, and ultimately inspired, presence of the promoted tail-ender, Nuwan Kulasekara, who was sent in to No. 5 to have a swing in the Powerplay and who for a prolonged period was about as useful to Sangakkara as a loose horse in the Grand National.

His promotion looked ill-judged as he struggled against James Anderson, but when he launched Graeme Swann's offspin for two successive leg-side sixes, and continued to thrash his way to an unbeaten 58 from 38 balls it abruptly became a masterstroke and long before the end had left England looking demoralised. Kulasekara also knew his place. Shortly after Sangakkara reached his 15th ODI hundred, and his first against England, he stumbled in mid-pitch and, recognising the danger of a run out, Kulasekara ran alongside him to ensure that he would be run out if anybody would be. In his instantaneous recognition that he must protect his partner at all costs, it spoke volumes for his good sense.

When Sangakkara responded by hoisting Anderson's slower ball for six, it communicated that he was worth preserving. Anderson was impressive, and England's ground fielding, led by the sub Jonny Bairstow, was exceptional at times, but three overs from Joe Root, England's insurance bowler, cost 27, and Stuart Broad had an expensive night. Jayawardene and Dilshan also played their part for Sri Lanka with a couple of 40s and Malinga was Sri Lanka's biggest threat with the ball: the star players had found a response.

Sri Lanka must have feared the game was up when Ravi Bopara struck 28 from the last over, from Shaminda Eranga, including three sixes and two fours, leaving Angelo Mathews mentally rewriting his close-of-innings speech in the Sri Lanka huddle as Bopara left the ground to rousing cheers.

Three England wickets had fallen in six balls at the death, including Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, the latter second ball for 0 - the batsmen they look to for the final flourish both silenced. But Bopara tore into Eranga, depositing him for sixes over long-on, extra cover and long-on again. He even took two runs off the only ball that Eranga managed to get into the blockhole.

That was the excitement; the rest belonged to Trott. His uncanny ability to turn a one-day international innings into an algorithm might not thrill cricket crowds around the world, but when he bats through, it requires something special in return for England to lose.

He worked the leg side with alacrity and, by the time he fell lbw, sweeping at Rangana Herath's left-arm spin, his time had been served. His one-day record is proven, his method brings victory more often than not, and many of those who rail against his methodical ways are railing, in part, about the fact that he is limiting the spectacle.

Alongside Trott, Root provided the perkiest of half-centuries, built on an appreciation of quick ones and twos and occasional inventiveness. If Root was shaken by his altercation with David Warner in the Walkabout bar in Birmingham on Sunday, he did not show it for a moment. Root fell to a slower offcutter from Malinga and left with a wink. Perhaps he winked at Warner, in his green and gold wig, and rued the consequences?

Sri Lanka dropped four catches in all, the most embarrassing of the lot from their eventual saviour, Sangakkara, who dashed from behind the stumps to claim Root's skier to midwicket, and shouted loudly enough, but then feared Mathews was about to collide with him and fumbled the ball in the process.

Dilshan also had the sort of afternoon that befalls this celebrated fielder so rarely. He dropped three catches in all, reprieving Alastair Cook twice, the first a tough diving chance to his right at backward point and the second an easier return catch when again he dived to his right but the ball eluded him. His third mishap, against Root, was a swirler as he dashed back from backward point. At the end of the night, all that was forgotten. A lively tournament had been brought alive.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by zamoo on (June 17, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

When Sanga stumbled in the middle of the pitch, kula just turn around and ran to the danger end.. That was one of the nicest things i've seen in the recent past. That unselfish good deed finally paid off isn't it?. We need more people like him in the cricketing field.

Posted by Pathiyal on (June 16, 2013, 10:02 GMT)

that innings of Sanga against England was one of the best innings in ODIs in the recent past. once upon a time, he was known for such silent and calculative innings. he seemed to be giving the youngsters some coaching lessons!!!! the surprise move of sending in nuwan paid off.

Posted by dragster21 on (June 16, 2013, 7:23 GMT)

I think its time the SL selectors/captain decide to step up one of our promising youngsters. We cannot keep protecting them behind Dilly Sanga and Mahela. Cos once they fall then the youngsters tend to crumble together under pressure. I certainly think Mahela should first move down the order and slot in Chandimal or Thirimane at 4. Then Sanga should eventually move a place down to four promoting Chandimal or Thirmane to 3rd. Mathews should also move a place up coz as a captain he needs to have the oppourtunity to win/contribute more to matches for SL. He cant be captaining SL without directly impacting the game for too long its not going to help his confidence. I would like to see a top order like this sooner rather than later. Kushal, Dilly, Chandimal, Sanga, Thirmane, Mathews, Mahela .... WE should get over this comment people say that once oppositions get through our main 3 (dilly, sanga and Mahela) our batting is all over. We have more talent that that!!

Posted by kevepere on (June 15, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

Hi Thish10, Yes you are correct . But i am only referring to the current form of those 3 . Not that they are not talented. I cannot agree with bringing in Kapu tho , he has been given so many chances in international level... Even now he is not performing well enough. Guys like angelo perera , kaushal silva and dimuth karunarathna are well ahead of him. Check the stats.. I dont think they will bring in kapu ever again if he continues to play like this. We need some quality batsman and some great fast bowlers..

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (June 15, 2013, 12:34 GMT)

My SL team against Aus is: Kushal, Dilshan, Sanga, Mahela, Anjelo, Jeewan, Tissara, Kula, Herath,Sachitra,Malinga. This has got 8 batsman, 4 Fast Bowlers, and 4 spinners. This will definitely give an edge against Aussies.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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