Player of the Match
Player of the Match

SL claim series amid Senanayake controversy

Sri Lanka 222 for 4 (Thirimanne 60*, Jayawardene 53) beat England 219 (Cook 54, Malinga 3-50) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Anyone who thought that Sachithra Senanayake being reported to the ICC for a suspect bowling action might be a cue for Sri Lanka to excuse him from duty, and the added attention it would bring, did not reckon with the player himself. Figures of 1 for 36, including the wicket of England's top-scorer, Alastair Cook, were just one thread of Sri Lanka's series-clinching six-wicket win but, by running out Jos Buttler while the batsman was backing up, Senanayake ensured that the narrative would be wound around him.

Mahela Jayawardene and Lahiru Thirimanne scored half-centuries as Sri Lanka kept cool in an atmosphere that was simultaneously heated and damp. England's bowlers, in particular James Tredwell and James Anderson, managed to ratchet up the asking rate but some business-like thumping from Angelo Mathews, who had to contend with a commentary from the fielding side over his role in Buttler's dismissal, sealed victory and another fortifying series triumph ahead of the Tests.

Mathews had earlier expressed his disappointment over Senanayake's situation - he is required to undergo biomechanical testing within the next 20 days - but Sri Lanka's capacity for turning adversity in their favour is well known. A comparable incident came during the triangular Carlton & United series in 1999, when Arjuna Ranatunga led his players off at Adelaide Oval after Ross Emerson no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing. England were again on the losing side, Sri Lanka chasing down a target of 303 with one wicket and two balls to spare.

As then, an offspinner with a controversial action was central to the drama. Having twice stopped in his delivery stride during the 42nd over to warn the batsmen - both Buttler and Chris Jordan - for backing up too far, Senanayake followed through on the threat in the 44th, turning slowly to break the wicket with Buttler a yard or so down the pitch.

The umpires consulted Mathews, Sri Lanka's captain, and he nodded his assent in upholding the appeal. That meant the first instance of 'Mankading' in international cricket since Peter Kirsten's innings was ended by Kapil Dev in such a manner during an ODI between South Africa and India in 1992.

There was predictable hostility from the crowd, even without suspicions over the legality of his bowling, but Senanayake was within his rights to make the appeal; the ICC changed its playing conditions in 2011 to allow bowlers to run out a batsman backing up at any point prior to releasing the ball, rather than before entering his delivery stride, as the MCC Laws state.

Buttler's dismissal, alongside creating a potential flashpoint, deprived England of their firestarter-in-chief for the closing overs of the innings. Although each of the top eight made it into double figures, no one could go beyond Cook's stodgy 56, as they were bowled out for 219 with 11 deliveries remaining. Despite losing 3 for 7 in 21 balls and having to contend with the threat of rain throughout, Sri Lanka were not greatly taxed in overhauling their target.

The openers, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kusal Perera, raised 50 together in the seventh over but Tredwell's introduction briefly threatened to turn the match. His second ball was crashed by Dilshan to cover, where Joe Root took a fabulous diving catch, before a pearler two overs later straightened on Kumar Sangakkara to clip the outside edge and be taken at slip. Kusal's dismissal, lbw to Anderson, left Sri Lanka 62 for 3 but England were left to regret a missed opportunity off Jayawardene when the batsman had 8 - a thick edge flying between Buttler and Jordan at slip - as a fourth-wicket stand of 98 carried the game away from them.

Cook reversed one of the trends of the series on winning the toss at Edgbaston, becoming the first captain to choose to bat. The innings began in watery sunlight, though gloom enveloped the ground as the afternoon wore on and the floodlights were required earlier than expected. The start of Sri Lanka's innings was then delayed by drizzle.

A 76-run opening stand provided England with the foundation they set so much store by but no other partnership was worth 30 , as the batsmen battled to score on a surface that was tackier than a velour leopard-print tracksuit. Cook hauled along the tumbrel of England's innings in familiar, dogged fashion, scoring his first ODI half-century in almost a year but, having reached 50 from 69 balls, he throttled back even further, partly in response to wickets falling, before being caught behind trying to sweep Senanayake for 56 from 84.

As England subsided, doddering to a premature end from an initially promising position of 98 for 1, a player they have so far overlooked in one-day cricket was making a more positive statement elsewhere. Alex Hales' 96-ball Championship hundred for Nottinghamshire, which he extended to 167 from 133, may turn out to be the most significant knock of the day, should England finally decide their World Cup strategy needs revision.

With the series locked at 2-2 and both sides in search of a decisive advantage, Mathews turned to Senanayake in the sixth over, perhaps as a public show of support for the unorthodox spinner. His first ball was toe-ended for four through gully by Cook but his composure and control did not desert him, even with the additional scrutiny, a five-over spell costing just 18 despite coming during the period of fielding restrictions.

Mathews was able to get through a few cheap overs from Dilshan and Ashan Priyanjan, the latter picking up Root, and the captain later brought himself on to good effect, having Eoin Morgan caught in the deep as wickets fell regularly.

England took the batting Powerplay at the earliest opportunity, suggesting a show of intent, but Mathews, fronting up in turn, bowled his spinners throughout and he was rewarded when Ian Bell chipped a return catch to Ajantha Mendis. Bell's innings was something of a curate's egg and he should have been taken on 18, when Mahela Jayawardene seemed to misjudge a straightforward catch above his head at midwicket, off a Nuwan Kulasekara legcutter.

Lasith Malinga was the next to strike, with England making seemingly comfortable progress at around five runs an over. They had hit the buffers long before Senanayake stepped into the full glare of the spotlight but that did not stop words being exchanged between the captains at the end. The Test series could be interesting.

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