England clinch NatWest Series
England withstood a thrilling fightback from young all-rounders Angelo Mathews and Jeevan Mendis to seal a 3-2 NatWest Series success with a narrow 16-run triumph over Sri Lanka in the fifth and final one-day international at Old Trafford.
Alastair Cook’s men looked to be cruising to victory after Tim Bresnan bowled Kumar Sangakkara for 48 to leave the tourists reeling on 131 for five as they chased 269 for victory.
Mathews, who top-scored for Sri Lanka with 62, and Mendis refused to be beaten, though, and put on 102 for the sixth wicket to leave the game in the balance going into the final four overs.
However, once the latter was dismissed for an ODI-best 48 by holing out to Kevin Pietersen at deep midwicket off Samit Patel, Sri Lanka lost their last four wickets in five balls as they collapsed to 252 all out in 48.2 overs.
It was a fitting end to a series decider in which the momentum shifted several times.
Earlier, half-centuries from Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan underpinned England’s total of 268 for nine after they won the toss – despite Suraj Randiv picking up his first five-wicket haul in ODI cricket.
Openers Craig Kieswetter and Cook picked up where they left off at Trent Bridge, giving the hosts a solid platform in the first international to be played at Old Trafford after the square was turned 90 degrees in the close season.
The former, who played second fiddle to captain Cook during their record, unbroken partnership of 171 as England levelled the series with a 10-wicket win at Trent Bridge, was particularly destructive.
He flicked Tillakaratne Dilshan off his hip for the first four off just the second delivery of the morning to set the tone for the first 10 overs.
Nuwan Kulasekara was clubbed over long-on for six by the wicketkeeper-batsman as England consistently found the boundary.
Cook was the more sanguine of the pair, although he struck three fours as England reached 75 without loss from 10 overs.
Cook opted to take the batting powerplay in the 12th over, but three wickets fell for the addition of 14 runs in the five overs to give Sri Lanka a firm foothold.
Cook was the first to go off the fifth delivery of the powerplay when he was stumped after charging at a sharply-turning delivery from Randiv for 31.
Kieswetter fell three balls later for 43 when he was bowled by a Dhammika Prasad delivery that appeared to keep low, and the Sri Lanka seamer then had Kevin Pietersen caught behind as he played loosely outside off stump.
The runs had predictably dried up in that period and, although Trott and Morgan understandably began slowly, they seemed confident to rotate the strike.
Boundaries were proving hard to come by, but the pair helped maintain a decent run-rate by picking up the ones and twos that were on offer.
Indeed, Trott hit just two fours on his way to a half-century off 63 balls, while Morgan showed his one-day pedigree by reining in his usually attacking instincts to find the boundary just once on his way to a 54-ball fifty.
The pair had put on 118 off just 125 deliveries before Morgan, looking to break the shackles, was dismissed in a similar vein to Cook for 57.
Shortly after hammering Lasith Malinga through midwicket for four, the left-hander, looking to strike over the top, walked down the wicket aiming to work Dilshan to leg. Sangakkara completed a second straightforward stumping.
Ian Bell chipped Randiv to long-on before Trott perished when his attempted pull off the off-spinner struck his body before delicately knocking off the bails.
Patel, who replaced Stuart Broad in the only change to England’s line-up, and Bresnan were dismissed by Randiv, the former slicing to cover before the latter's dragged pull was skied to Sangakkara as the 26-year-old took 5-42.
Graeme Swann was run out, but Anderson and Jade Dernbach added 10 in the last over off the unusually wayward Malinga.
Sri Lanka’s reply began badly when debutant Dimuth Karunaratne edged a back-of-a-length delivery from Bresnan to Trott at first slip.
The Yorkshireman then accounted for Sri Lanka captain Dilshan, who pulled to Dernbach at fine-leg for his fifth consecutive single-figure score in the series.
Dernbach dropped the influential Mahela Jaywardene on six in the same position, but the number three failed to make England pay. He miscued a lofted drive off Anderson to Cook at mid-off after adding just three to his total.
Refusing to be subdued, Dinesh Chandimal took the attack to England’s bowlers and crunched sixes down the ground off Bresnan and Swann.
The boundaries started to dry up, with Swann bowling two successive maidens before Chandimal released his shackles with a piledriving four over midwicket off the spinner.
He tried to repeat the trick off the same bowler shortly after he had passed fifty, only to be stumped for 54 by Kieswetter.
The writing appeared to be on the wall when Sangakkara fell two runs shy of a half-century when he inside-edged Bresnan onto his stumps.
Mathews and Mendis were happy to collect the singles interspersed with a rare boundary at first, but they grew in stature as the overs passed.
Mathews stroked successive fours through cover off Patel in the 42nd over and brought up a deserved half-century in the 46th over with another boundary off Anderson.
With four overs to go the game was still in the balance as Sri Lanka needed 36 runs, but Cook’s decision to bowl Patel in the 47th over paid immediate dividends.
It was the first of four wickets to tumble in quick succesion, including Mathews' as he was deceived by a characteristic slower ball from Dernbach to essentially end Sri Lanka’s valiant efforts.