World Cup: Malinga show keeps Sri Lanka afloat

Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga (4/43) shines in the islanders’ 20-run surprise win over England on Friday to keep Cup hopes alive.

Sri Lanka speedster Lasith Malinga celebrates the wicket of Jos Buttler during the match against England in Headingley on Friday.   -  AFP

 

When the going gets tough, Lasith Malinga gets going! The 35-year-old speedster scalped four wickets at Headingley on Friday as Sri Lanka stunned England by 20 runs in a World Cup fixture.

After putting up a modest 232-9, the Lankan bowling attack, spearheaded by the seasoned Malinga (four for 43), successfully defended the total, bundling out England for 212.

On a surface that offered slow turn and appreciable bounce, Ben Stokes did play an unbeaten knock of 82, but that was not enough to guide England home.

As it happened| England vs Sri Lanka

In its last three outings in the World Cup — in 2007, 2011 and 2015 — Sri Lanka had defeated England and it maintained the tradition as a star-studded England batting line-up crumbled under pressure.

Though the stage looked set for an England victory till the 30th over, things tilted Sri Lanka’s way thereafter as the home team lost seven wickets for 85 runs.

Chasing a modest total, England looked jittery from the beginning with Malinga packing off openers James Vince and Jonny Bairstow inside the first seven overs.

But hopes were alive with Joe Root and captain Eoin Morgan on the crease. Coming in at No.3, Root stitched two partnerships — 47 with Morgan and 54 with Ben Stokes — before being caught behind off Malinga. Even though umpire Paul Wilson thought it was not out, a referral reversed the decision Sri Lanka’s way.

This was Malinga’s 50th wicket in World Cups, and certainly the game-changing moment.

England needed a little more than 100 runs when Root departed, but the host lost the plot as Stokes ran out of partners. He tried stitching small partnerships with Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali — who played his 100th ODI for England. And even after being dropped on 57, he went for some big shots but those weren’t enough for England’s revival.

A dejected Ben Stokes walks back to the pavilion after the loss to Sri Lanka.   -  REUTERS

 

Till Wednesday, there was no clarity on Malinga’s availibility as the speedster had flown back home for his mother-in-law’s last rites; there could not have been a better return.

Hosting its first fixture of the tournament, a packed Headingley witnessed Archer and Wood challenging Sri Lankan batsmen earlier in the day.

Opting to bat, the islanders were off to a poor start as they lost openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera within three overs. But things got steady with Avishka Fernando — playing his first fixture of the tournament — chipping in with a knock of 49 before being caught by Adil Rashid at third-man off Wood.

Angelo Mathews dished out an unbeaten knock of 85 later, though it took him 13 balls to get off the mark. Banking on his experience, Mathews slowly tried steadying the ship, stitching a 71-run stand with Kusal Mendis (46) to lay the platform for a competitive total.

Angelo Mathews.   -  AFP

 

Archer and Woods ensured that the tail was furrowed. In the process, Archer (3-52) also became the joint highest wicket-taker in the tournament alongside Australia’s Mitchell Starc with 15 scalps.