Dignified victory for Strauss
England captain Andrew Strauss was persuaded into his act of sportsmanship in the six-wicket win over Sri Lanka at the Wanderers by a replay on the ground’s giant screen.
Strauss summoned Angelo Mathews back to the crease after he was run out going for two late in Sri Lanka’s innings.
Mathews collided with bowler Graham Onions after turning for a second and was stopped dead in his tracks as Joe Denly’s throw from deep square-leg flew to wicketkeeper Matt Prior, who whipped off the bails.
It would have left Sri Lanka 170 for seven in the 40th over, but with Grant Elliott’s dismissal from a floored position at the Brit Oval in the 2008 NatWest Series fresh in the mind, Strauss opted for a reprieve.
“I didn’t see it because I was watching the ball at the time,” said Strauss. “I then had a chance to look at the replay and the umpires said 'it’s up to you if you want to call him back'.
“My feelings on it were that it just didn’t look right, and I also thought he was going to get back for the two quite comfortably if he hadn’t collided.
“I don’t think Graham Onions did anything wrong, there was no malice there at all, and other captains would be quite within their rights to not call him back.
“Possibly having Colly (Paul Collingwood) castigated for it a couple of years ago that was probably not the right thing to do.”
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara applauded his opposite number’s decision.
“I watched the game where Ryan Sidebottom had that collision against the New Zealand batsman,” said Sangakkara.
“I thought this was an excellent gesture of sportsmanship and was in the spirit of the game.
“It’s all a matter of interpretation, it might have been an accident, but at the end of the day I think the right thing was done.”
Despite arriving here on the back of a 6-1 beating by Australia, England now sit top of Group B in the Champions Trophy, knowing that victory over hosts South Africa on Sunday will put them into the semi-finals.
This win was set up by James Anderson’s fine new-ball spell alongside Onions - both took two early wickets - as Sri Lanka were reduced to 17 for four in overcasty conditions.
Even though half-centuries from Mathews and Thilina Kandamby ensured Sri Lanka were competitive, Collingwood’s 46, Owais Shah’s 44 and an unbeaten 62 from Eoin Morgan saw England to only their fourth win in 12 one-day attempts against the Sri Lankans.
“It’s a quick scoring ground, we just needed to make sure we didn’t lose too many wickets early,” said Strauss.
“Overall I was very happy with the intent the batsmen showed. They took the game to the Sri Lankans, and didn’t let the spinners bowl at us.
"(Morgan) plays at Middlesex with me and he has played a lot of innings like that for the past couple of years.
“It’s just great to see him transfer that into the international arena. He looked calm and he played the spinners well - that was the key for us.”
'Mystery spinner' Ajantha Mendis, whose speciality is to demolish teams he faces for the first time, went wicketless, while Muttiah Muralitharan’s one success came at a cost of 60.
“We can take a lot of confidence from this,” Strauss added. “This was a pretty professional performance with the bat and you take a lot of confidence from these sort of performances.
“Guys standing up, playing to their potential and not playing with fear.
“If we play like that we are a dangerous side. We are not going to be touting ourselves as the winners of the competition at this stage but if we keep getting better we will be hard to beat.”