For a while Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan beguiled a 14,500 full house at Bristol. But ultimately England’s batsmen came up horribly short as Sri Lanka cruised to a nine-wicket victory in a one-sided NatWest International T20 contest.
When Mahela Jayawardene effortlessly took 4,6,4, off the first three balls of the third over, sent down by Chris Woakes, it was clear the tourists would have little difficulty in chasing down a modest target of 137. The only question was how long it would take. The answer 17.2 overs.
England’s batting had been a two-man show, Petersen (41) and Morgan (47) adding 83 for the third wicket in 55 balls. The less said about the rest the better as Stuart Broad’s first game as T20 captain saw him lose the toss, be run out by half the length of the pitch, and go for 29 off his 3.2 overs without taking a wicket.
Head up, Stu, things can only improve. Sri Lanka scored 21 more runs than England off their six-over power play and never looked back as Jayawardene, who had 26 on the board before opening partner Sanath Jayasuriya had scored, waltzed to a 40-ball half-century.
The rest of the match was like a wet firework night. Kumar Sangakarra (43 not out) helped Jayawardene (72 not out) ease their team to a low key win that made the Test series between the two sides look electric.
Morgan changed the early course of the game with one shot. Openers Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter had both departed cheaply and England had barely played a shot in anger when the left-hander audaciously advanced down the pitch to deposit Suranga Lakmal back over his head for six to get off the mark.
The next delivery went the same way for four and, although only 33 came off the six overs of power play, the shackles had been broken. Pietersen stepped outside his off-stump to turn a wide ball from Thisara Perera through square-leg for a boundary and brought up the fifty with a flat six over mid-wicket off Suraj Randiv.
It was great fun for all too short a time. Morgan survived a comfortable chance to long-on when on 23 and responded by lifting two Perera full tosses over the ropes in an over that cost the bowler 24. With both batsmen improvising as only they among the England team can, the total moved to 95 for 3 in the 12th over.
If anyone had suggested then that only one more boundary would follow in the innings, they would have been laughed out of the ground. But that’s what transpired as Morgan and Pietersen fell in quick sucession, the wily Jayasuriya (2-18) wove a spell with his left-arm around the wicket non-spinners and the slingy Latith Malinga (2-15) had the England middle order equally transfixed.
Ravi Bopara managed a four, but fell to a desperate swing, which could also be said of Luke Wright. Samit Patel was run out for a duck and Broad found himself striding out with seven balls left at 131 for 7. Where oh where was Ian Bell?
It was tepid stuff and Jayawardene was about to put it firmly in perspective.
Shot of the Day: Straight six to get off the mark by Morgan, advancing down pitch, off Lakmal.
Catch of the Match: Jayawardene’s tumbling effort to dismiss Morgan, running round from square-leg to mid-wicket.
Gaff of the Game: Angelo Mathews dropping a sitter at long-on offered by Morgan on 23.
Biggest Positive For England: The shot-making of Pietersen and Morgan was a different class.
Most Dramatic Moment: There wasn’t one.
The Verdict: England lost their way hopelessly after Morgan’s dismissal and let a promising position slip away. Sri Lanka’s batsmen were never seriously tested.