Chris Jordan to the fore for impressive England
In their opening high-profile match under this format since Peter Moores’ return as coach, it was one of England’s new breed who was appropriately to the fore with his powerful hitting and three crucial wickets as well.
Ian Bell (50) – before a two-and-a-half-hour stoppage which resulted in an initial 39-overs-per-side reduction – and Gary Ballance (64), either side of it, laid the platform for England’s 247 for six.
That useful total was commuted upwards first of all to a D/L target of 259 under lights and then, after an interruption in the chase too, to 226 in 32 overs.
Sri Lanka did not threaten seriously, eventually bowled out for 144 in 27.5 overs as Jordan (three for 25) proved their stumbling block. It was the late impetus he provided with the bat – five fours and two sixes from just 13 balls – which did most to settle the contest.
Joe Root and Jos Buttler made important contributions, too, as England recovered from off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake’s three for 30 and defied the disturbing effect of having to start to set a score twice over. As 93 runs were piled on in England’s last seven overs, Jordan and Buttler then took a heavy toll of expert white-ball pace pair Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara.
England lost their captain Alastair Cook early after being put in on a cloudy afternoon. He made just 11 from 23 balls, and had been dropped on one before going to an edge behind at an attempted drive off Kulasekara. Five overs later, Bell called two from a nudge into the leg-side but would have been run out for 17 if wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara’s dash and throw on the turn had hit the stumps.
Bell and new No 3 Ballance did well to keep the board ticking – including a memorable straight six by the opener off Thisara Perera – and avoid any further losses in a half-century stand which brought up England’s hundred. The rain break, however, was a hiccup.
First of all Bell, who had just completed his 50 in 52 balls, fell to the last delivery before the predicted thunderstorm, guiding Angelo Mathews’ slower ball into the hands of short fine leg.
When England returned, Eoin Morgan misread Senanayake and chopped on as he tried to cut. Ballance celebrated his half-century with a powerful mow for six off Suranga Lakmal but was then caught in the deep off Senanayake, who had a third victim when Ravi Bopara was lbw sweeping. Then Jordan produced the best of all in an unbroken stand of 54 in 21 balls with Buttler (26 not out).
Sri Lanka’s reply got off to a false start when James Anderson had opener Lahiru Thirimanne lbw with new-ball swing, and Harry Gurney doubled up when Sangakkara edged on to his stumps in defence. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene consolidated but the second rain break brought another re-calculation, and Dilshan departed almost immediately after to Jordan – a slice down to third man well-held by Ballance.
Sri Lanka were still just within striking distance even after Jayawardene chipped James Tredwell (three for 38) to midwicket. But Jordan returned to take two more quick wickets as Dinesh Chandimal and Kulasekara’s attempts to hit to leg resulted instead in contrasting catches for wicketkeeper Buttler.
Only the margin of England’s victory was in doubt, and after Cook took a very good catch off Tredwell, running back to collect Mathews’ reverse-sweep, it was clear it would be substantial.