England level series in style
England Under-19s earned a share of the one-day international series with their Sri Lanka counterparts, courtesy of a creditable 51-run Duckworth-Lewis victory at Canterbury in the fifth and final match.
A mixed batting effort meant England were required to defend 184, and new-ball bowlers Matt Dunn and David Payne produced an exemplary response to reduce the tourists to 43 for five.
Rain intervened at that point and, after a 90-minute delay, Sri Lanka were set a target of 177 in 41 overs.
That proved well out of reach as they were dismissed in 34 overs, Payne finishing with 4-40 from eight and Dunn 3-15 from 6.1.
England opener Jack Manuel was named man of the match for his fluent 63 that underpinned the hosts’ 184 all out in 48.2 overs on a slow, turning wicket.
After Sri Lanka’s 11-run win yesterday at the same venue, which put them 2-1 up in the series, home skipper Paul Best chose to bat first on a pitch seemingly destined to deteriorate.
Only Manuel, the Worcestershire left-hander, showed the necessary concentration to build an innings, as England progressed to a promising position at 117 for four.
Manuel was unafraid to dance down the track or sweep the bowlers, though he eventually succumbed to a slog-sweep that ushered in mid-innings uncertainty for his colleagues, on a tough pitch to accumulate.
Number eight Best was left to shepherd the tail, which he did to some effect with a patient 28 not out from 47 balls.
Lahiru Jayarathne’s seamers caused most disruption to England, ridding them of in-form top-order batsmen Lewis Gregory and Luke Wells, and returning to claim last man Dunn.
Dunn and Payne soon turned the tables. With hardly any runs on offer, Rumesh Buddika was defeated by Payne’s sumptuous slower-ball yorker.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Kithuruwan Vithanage and Ramith Rambukewlla all followed to uncertain shots off the fast bowlers, to have Sri Lanka in disarray.
The shutters stayed down as Best raced through his overs and, when after 20.2 overs rain swept across the ground, the tourists were more than 60 runs behind England under D-L calculations.
Best also demonstrated sharp thinking, or an act contrary to the ‘Spirit of Cricket’, depending on your view, in the crucial 20th over.
With the groundstaff poised to bring the covers on, England needed to complete the over in order to guarantee a match under the D-L method.
The England captain, fielding at mid-off, appeared to deliberately put down Denuwan Rajakaruna, presumably in order for Wells to get through his six balls quicker.
A nonplussed Rajakaruna survived unbeaten on nine and on the resumption brought into question Best’s tactic as he advanced his score.
Although he was run out for 28, Akshu Fernando and captain Chathura Peiris kept Sri Lanka’s hopes alive.
Fernando fell victim of brilliant England team-work on the long-off boundary, departing for 23 to Best’s catch.
The tourists’ tail could not support their skipper and he was last out, bowled by a jubilant Dunn for 26, as England created perfect symmetry in their summer; the Test and Twenty20 international series against Sri Lanka were also drawn.
Best said: "It was great to win the final match and level the one-day series.
“The result was a fair reflection of the strength of the two teams and it was fantastic for England players ending their U19s career to finish on a high."