Sri Lanka 160 for 2 (Nissanka 77*, Samarawickrama 65*) beat England 156 (Stokes 43, Kumara 3-35) by eight wickets
England’s World Cup defence is not dead yet. And more’s the pity, to judge by this latest hollow-eyed display from Jos Buttler’s ex-worldbeaters. The humiliations are coming so thick and fast that they are losing their shock factor but, suffice to say, this latest crushing loss – by eight wickets and in just 59 overs of the match’s 100 – was neither the largest nor the most shocking of an abject campaign.
It was, however, the one that confirmed beyond any lingering doubt that this team of genuine England greats no longer has any miracles left within its dressing-room. The match-up was nominally eighth versus ninth in the tournament standings, but by the time Pathum Nissanka had slammed Sri Lanka’s winning six over long-on with a massive 148 balls remaining, you were left to wonder whether this England team, in this miserable mood, could even have matched their conquerors’ achievement of making out of the qualifying tournament in July that did for the likes of West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland.
The theory was that a reversion to such depth would free England up to play their natural attacking game, and so it proved in a misleadingly energetic powerplay flurry. Dawid Malan lashed six fours in as many overs in another brief but imposing cameo – five of them launched in trademark fashion over the covers as Dilshan Madushanka offered too much width.
But the signs of England’s anxiety were never far from the surface. Had Sri Lanka trusted their instincts, Jonny Bairstow would have fallen lbw first-ball, after replays showed that his straight drive to a Madushanka yorker had first flicked his front pad. And when that first incision finally came, the rest of a devastatingly off-colour line-up followed all too obediently.
Sri Lanka’s catalyst was a familiar England foe. Mathews would not have been called into their squad but for a tournament-ending injury to Matheesha Pathirana, but at the age of 36, his first over in an ODI for three-and-a-half years dripped with nagging intent. His second delivery, to Malan, popped without pace off a perfect line and length to skim past the splice; his follow-up was rinse-and-repeat, and this time there was a thin scuff on ultra-edge as Sri Lanka instantly reviewed the on-field not-out verdict.