England 180 for 6 (Malan 76, Bairstow 51, Chameera 4-17) beat Sri Lanka 91 (Binura 20, Willey 3-27, Curran 2-14) by 89 runs
England completed a 3-0 clean sweep over Sri Lanka in the T20I series with a crushing 89-run victory at the Ageas Bowl. It was the fourth-largest victory margin in terms of runs England have achieved in the format.
Despite the loss of both regular openers to injury, England posted a century stand for the first wicket to grasp a firm hold on the match which they were never to relinquish. Dawid Malan
was named Player of the Match for a fluent innings of 76 that belied the slow nature of the pitch. Jonny Bairstow
made 51. Nobody in the rest of the match passed 20.
England lost their way a little towards the end of their innings. An excellent spell of death bowling from Dushmantha Chameera
, a bright spot amid the rubble of a bitterly disappointing Sri Lanka performance, saw England lose five wickets for 19 runs between the 16th and 19th overs. Chameera finished with career-best figures of 4 for 17.
Chris Jordan, however, helped England plunder 17 from the final over of the innings to take them to a total that was always likely to prove beyond the reach of a side that had failed to reach 130 in either of the first two games in the series.
So it proved as England's seamers, gaining a degree of lateral movement that is unusual with the white kookaburra ball, combined to bowl Sri Lanka out for just 91. It was the fourth lowest score Sri Lanka have made from a completed T20I innings.
Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Jordan took 4 for 36 from their 12 overs combined, while David Willey
picked up three wickets.
With Jason Roy suffering from a tight hamstring, Moeen Ali was recalled to the T20I side for the first time since September 2020. But he was consigned to a peripheral role by the dominance of England's opening batters and the excellence of their seamers.
Sri Lanka also made a couple of changes. But Oshada Fernando, who took 27 balls over his 19 runs and seemed preoccupied with trying to hit almost everything through the leg side, underwhelmed and Lakshan Sandakan was unable to make any inroads with his left-arm legspin. Avishka Fernando was absent through injury.
Given that England went into this series without two first-choice players (in Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer) and lost Jos Buttler to a calf injury along the way, this result would seem to confirm their place among the favourites for the T20 World Cup in a few months. It is harder to find room for optimism for a Sri Lanka side that succumbed to their first clean-sweep defeat in any limited-overs series (of at least three matches) against England.
Malan, who has been batting at No. 3 of late, and Bairstow, who has been at No. 4, put on 105 for the first wicket in 11.4 overs. After taking a couple of overs to size up the bowling and the conditions, they attacked with calm precision to define the rest of the game. Their stand was 14 more than the entire Sri Lanka side managed.
It was England's first century opening stand against Sri Lanka in T20Is and their fifth in total. Underlining that strength in depth is the observation that Alex Hales, another man who is currently deemed surplus to requirements, was involved in three of those five century stands and was busy scoring a century for Nottinghamshire while this game was being played. Realistically, Malan and Bairstow are likely to be shunted back down the order when Buttler and Roy return.
Some cheer from Chameera
This has been, in many ways, a chastening series for Sri Lanka. But the performance of Chameera, at least, has been encouraging. With his pace, control and variations, he challenged the batters in each game. Over the series, he had an impressive economy rate of 6.26 per over.
Chameera began by conceding just three from the first over of the match, demonstrating an ability to gain a little movement and a sharp short ball. But it was when he returned towards the death that he excelled: mixing his quicker deliveries - he can exceed 140kph - with some well-directed slower balls, he took four wickets for six runs in those two overs and dragged back a runaway England.
Malan makes a statement
He batted both beautifully and at an impressive tempo. His first boundary, from his sixth delivery, was a clip for six off his legs that was timed to perfection and it was followed by a succession of reverse-sweeps, drives and slog-sweeps that provided a reminder of his range and class. One lofted drive over extra-cover might have been the stroke of the day. He beat Bairstow to fifty (30 and 41 balls respectively) and demonstrated his ability as a power hitter by heaving Wanindu Hasaranga for two vast sixes in an over.
Don't fret about his having 'only' scored 76 by the time he was dismissed in the 19th over: he had been starved of the strike. On another sluggish surface, his strike-rate - 158.33 - was significantly better than anyone else who faced 10 deliveries in the match.
Sri Lanka Battered
With scores of 111 for 7, 129 for 7 and now 91 all out, Sri Lanka's batters have looked strangely impotent. They were never able to register a total that threatened England and only one of them could get up to a score of 40 all series. With time running out ahead of the T20 World Cup, it's an area that will have to improve if Sri Lanka are to challenge.
Woakes' happy return
It had been almost six years since Woakes had played a T20I before this series. But, in conceding just 3.28 runs per over in the two games he played, he must have earned himself a chance of a longer-term recall. His control, skills, and variations - which seems, on this evidence, to include a new slower ball which is delivered with no change of seam position and appears tough to pick-up - and his ability to contribute with the bat, would appear to render him an attractive option.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo