Specials – Best of the ODIs : England v Sri Lanka

  Sri Lanka are about to begin their limited-overs leg in England in the coming week, with Trent Bridge hosting the first ODI tomorrow. Having been humbled in the Test series, the Lions will be looking to perform better in a format which suits them well. Indeed, Sri Lanka have won two of their last three ODI series in England.

  The two teams have played each other in 64 ODIs since their first meeting in 1981-82 and have developed a closely-fought rivalry over the years. Sri Lanka hold a slight edge with 34 wins as against England’s 30. In this post, we look back at five of the most exciting ODI matches between the two countries, in chronological order.

Colombo, 1981-82

  This was the first ever ODI to be played between England and Sri Lanka and also the first official international to be played on Sri Lankan soil. The home captain Bandula Warnapura elected to field after winning the toss in this historic match of 45 overs per side at the Sinhalese Sports Club.

  Graham Gooch and Geoff Cook added a cautious 55 for the first wicket before off-spinner Lalith Kaluperuma accounted for the latter. Gooch cashed in on some shoddy fielding  and steered England to a commanding position. He was third out for 64 with the score at 152, after having shared in a stand of 69 with Ian Botham.

  Botham carted 60 in just 51 balls, but his dismissal to Sri Lanka’s premier pace bowler Ashantha de Mel triggered a calamitous collapse. England’s innings nosedived from 191/3 to 211 all out with de Mel (4/34) castling last man Derek Underwood off the fourth ball of the final over. Sri Lanka would have really fancied their chances at this point.

  Opener Sidath Wettimuny decided to dig in, but wickets were steadily falling at the other end. When he was dismissed by debutant Paul Allott, Sri Lanka had lost three wickets for eight and were in trouble at 92/5. The sixth-wicket pair Ranjan Madugalle and Anura Ranasinghe brought their side back into the contest with a counter-attacking stand of 68 at nearly six an over.


       Ian Botham produced an all-round performance to help England to a narrow win in their inaugural ODI against Sri Lanka in 1981-82 (source – bbc.co.uk/) 

  Though Bob Willis broke through Madugalle’s defences, Ranasinghe went on to a breezy 51 from just 41 balls before man of the match Botham halted his charge to make it 187/8. The tail stretched the contest into the final over, but the experience of the English bowlers kept them at bay, restricting the total to 206/8.

Colombo, 1981-82

  Just a day after the first ODI, Sri Lanka levelled the two-match series in what was another nail-biting encounter. The hosts were inserted in by Keith Fletcher and almost immediately found themselves on the backfoot courtesy Botham. ‘Beefy’ struck twice to reduce the score to 5/2. Roy Dias’ hit-wicket dismissal made it 43/3.

  Wettimuny played the sheet anchor again and found support from 18-year-old debutant Arjuna Ranatunga. The duo put on 87 for the fourth wicket before Ranatunga was run out for a mature 42. England kept the scoring rate in check with regular wickets but were unable to get past Wettimuny, who carried his bat with 86* in a total of 215/7 from the allotted 45 overs.

  Gooch (74) and Cook halved the target by themselves with an opening stand of 109, but slow left-armer Ajit de Silva had both the openers stumped by wicketkeeper Mahes Goonatilleke. The big wickets of David Gower and Botham too fell soon and England were now 147/4. Disciplined bowling from the Sri Lankans was doing the trick.

  Despite having five wickets in hand, the asking rate for the last five overs was almost nine. Fletcher and Mike Gatting were up to the task as it came down to 14 runs from the last two overs. However, the next four batsmen to fall were all run out before De Mel dismissed Willis to consign England to a three-run defeat with a ball to spare, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Adelaide, 1998-99

  Sri Lanka secured a thrilling victory in this controversial, high-scoring clash of the Carlton and United Tri Series in Australia. Ranatunga, who became the most experienced ODI captain in this match – his 179th in charge – put England in to bat after winning the toss.

  England’s innings revolved around number three Graeme Hick’s sublime, unbeaten 126 from 118 balls which included five fours and four sixes. He was joined by Neil Fairbrother (78*) at 148/3 in the 29th over and the two put the Sri Lankan attack to the sword with an unbroken stand of 154 in 128 balls. This enabled England to post a daunting 302/3.


 Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga argues with umpire Ross Emerson after the latter called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing at Adelaide in 1998-99 (source – gettyimages)

  The innings was marred by bitterness when square-leg umpire Ross Emerson called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in his second over. An incensed Ranatunga led his team off the field in protest and it was only after 14 minutes that the match resumed. This incident led to acrimony between the two sides, which continued well into Sri Lanka’s innings.

  Romesh Kaluwitharana and Marvan Atapattu fell within the first four overs the chase as Sri Lanka were reduced to 8/2. Sanath Jayasuriya cracked a typical 51 off just 36 balls before his dismissal made the score 68/3, at which point 21-year-old Mahela Jayawardene came out to the middle.

  Jayawardene shared in crucial partnerships of 66 with Hashan Tillakaratne and 89 with Ranatunga for the fourth and fifth wickets respectively. He went to reach his maiden ODI hundred and when he was seventh out, leg before to Vince Wells for 120 from 111 balls including nine fours, Sri Lanka still needed 35 from 28 balls.

  Calculated hitting from Upul Chandana and Roshan Mahanama brought the target closer as the match headed towards a tantalising finish; the latter’s being the ninth wicket to fall at 298 with seven balls left. The last pair maintained their composure and incidentally, it was ‘Murali’ who hit the winning run off the fourth ball of the final over.

North Sound, 2006-07

  This was one of the rare close matches of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, the venue being the new Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. Sri Lanka rode on a brace of half-centuries from Upul Tharanga and captain Jayawardene after Michael Vaughan sent them in to bat.

  Tharanga ground out a patient 62 while Jayawardene struck a breezy 56, the two adding 91 for the third wicket after coming together at 69/2. However, the middle and lower order could not capitalise on this platform. Sri Lanka lost wickets regularly once these two batsmen were dismissed, eventually getting bowled out for 235 in 50 overs.

  Sajid Mahmood (4/50) and Andrew Flintoff (3/35) were the pick of the English bowlers. England had a poor start as they lost openers Ed Joyce and Vaughan with just 11 runs on the board. Ian Bell (47) and Kevin Pietersen (58) steadied the ship with a sensible stand of 90 for the third wicket. But the pendulum swung again when England lost 4 for 32, leaving them in trouble at 133/6.


      Dilhara Fernando is congratulated after he bowled Ravi Bopara in the final over of the 2007 World Cup match between England and Sri Lanka (source – smh.com.au/AP)

  England needed another substantial partnership, which was provided by Ravi Bopara and Paul Nixon. They brought their team back into the contest by putting on 87 in 92 balls for the seventh wicket. Nixon fell in the 49th over, which meant England still had three wickets in hand when they needed 12 from the final over.

  Dilhara Fernando (3/41) was entrusted with the last over. Mahmood took a single to give strike to the set Bopara, who duly hit a boundary to bring the equation to 7 off 4. Bopara (52) reached his fifty off the next ball, and it all boiled down to him facing the last ball with three to win. It was not to be, as Fernando clipped the top of his off-stump to ensure Sri Lanka sneaked a two-run win.

Lord’s, 2014

  England were leading the five-match series 2-1 coming into this fourth ODI, which meant Sri Lanka could not afford to lose. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara made hay after Alastair Cook elected to field, adding 172 for the second wicket. Dilshan was dismissed for 71, but Sangakkara went on to reach three figures.

  The Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman scored his 19th ODI hundred – a fine 112 from 104 balls with 14 fours – before getting out in the 43rd over. This enabled Sri Lanka to post a round 300/9 in their 50 overs, the last seven wickets falling for 79. Harry Gurney bowled well to collect 4/55.

  England started off the wrong foot, losing Cook to Lasith Malinga in the second over. Malinga (3/52) soon accounted for Bell as well, leaving the score to be 10/2. The Yorkshire pair of Gary Ballance and Joe Root shared 84 for the third wicket but both fell within four overs of each other to dent the chase again. At 111/5 in the 29th over, things were looking grim for the hosts.

  Enter Jos Buttler. The English wicketkeeper went on a boundary-hitting spree and altered the course of the match, dominating a stand of 133 off 98 balls for the sixth wicket with Bopara (51). He stormed his way into the record books, taking only 61 balls to reach his hundred – the quickest by an Englishman until he himself broke it with a 46-ball effort against Pakistan in 2015-16.

  Buttler’s charge ensured that the match went into the last over – to be bowled by Malinga – with 12 runs needed. Chris Jordan was out off the second ball and then with nine to win off three, Buttler was run out by the bowler for a valiant 121 in 74 balls with 11 fours and four sixes, thus dashing English hopes. England finished at 293/8 and went on to lose the series after another defeat in the decider.

Watch Sri Lanka prevail over England at the Adelaide Oval.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s