Report: Connor Steel
Photograph: BBC Sport
ENGLAND Cricket completed a 3-0 series whitewash against Sri Lanka in the final international action at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
It came days after the Southampton venue hosted the World Test Championship final between New Zealand and India finishing in midweek.
But the pitch didn’t stop England from beating their transitioning opponents with the 89-run victory reflecting real dominance from the home side after two previous wins against Sri Lanka in Cardiff this week.
Losing the toss and being put into bat didn’t seem an issue for the English openers, with a combination of Johnny Bairstow and Dawid Malan racing towards a century partnership after just 11 overs.
Although Bairstow was out for 51 (bowled) with the score on 105-1, his fellow opener Malan continued to outpace his partners until he sent a shot into the hands of a fielder on 76 runs as he was named man of the match.
Dawid Malan’s dismissal fell in a cluster of wickets as England collapsed from 147-1 to 162-6 in the space of three overs; the Sri Lankan comeback led by Dasmuntha Chameera’s career best four for 17. Sam Billings, captain Eoin Morgan and Liam Livingstone were amongst the players to fall cheaply, which is particularly damaging to their hopes of being part of the Twenty-20 World Cup squad due to be named in September.
But the pressure was reduced by a solid unbeaten partnership from Sam Curran and Chris Jordan, who scored a combined 17 runs in the last two overs to set Sri Lanka a target of 181 to win from 20 overs (England finished 180-6).
This would be a huge task for the Sri Lankans who hadn’t scored more than 129 in their last five Twenty-20 innings; an ambitious job that soon got harder when they fell to 29-3 in the fifth over.
Early wickets from Chris Woakes and David Willey did the damage as the required run rate increased to over 10 per over as the powerplay concluded. This was despite the best efforts of Oshada Fernando who scored 19 runs off 27 balls to partly stabilise a failing innings with the game almost drifting away as a meaningful contest as he was dismissed.
However this resistance was ended in the twelfth over when Niroshan Dickwella was caught for 11, with four wickets falling for identical runs in 18 balls to send the Ageas Bowl into large cheers. Poor shotplay and good bowling were the foundations, whilst Sam Billings Billings produced a brilliant run out with a direct hit from the deep to dismiss Dasun Shanaka to leave the score at 64-8.
Not for the first time in the run chase, England’s victory was slightly held up by the lower order with Binura Fernando offering great resistance. His 20 runs off 14 balls contained one six into the crowd, which was arguably shot of the day before he was bowled by spin bowler Liam Livingston in his only over. Fernando’s dismissal ultimately ended the tie, with the remaining wicket falling soon after as the home side won by 89 runs just before 6pm on a sunny Southampton evening.
England and Sri Lanka now travel to Durham for three ODIs next week, with the Asian side looking to build on their positives despite their three-nil series whitewash sealed in front of a large crowd at the Ageas Bowl. But with no other international cricket currently planned for 2021, attention must turn to hosting Hampshire Cricket games as the Hawks look to end a faltering campaign in all forms of the game. This starts with many home Vitality Blast campaign, with seven T20 fixtures scheduled over three weeks between June 28 and July 18.