England downed in Dambulla
England started their five-match one-day international tour of Sri Lanka with defeat in Dambulla.
The series win over India three weeks ago had raised expectations that England’s developing one-day line-up finally had enough in their armoury to test Sri Lanka in their own conditions.
The tourists were beaten by 119 runs, after being dismissed for 150 chasing Sri Lanka’s competitive 269 for seven.
It was a poor start to the series and leaves England still waiting to add to their solitary victory on Sri Lankan soil.
That came in 1982, and since then their hosts have won all eight completed matches.
Sri Lanka’s triumph also extended their recent record over England to just one defeat in the last nine matches home and away.
The architect of England's downfall was seamer Farveez Maharoof, whose 22 off 12 balls had earlier propelled Sri Lanka past 250 to a competitive total just as wickets began to fall in the final overs.
Having contributed with the bat, Maharoof then ripped through England’s top order to leave them chasing the match for the remainder of the contest, claiming three for four in only 17 balls and finishing with 4-31 from an unbroken 10-over spell.
Brought on in the eighth over after Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard forged an encouraging stand of 43 inside eight overs, Maharoof’s impact was immediate.
Mustard mistimed his third ball to mid-off after an enterprising 27 off 17 balls and four overs later Ian Bell chased a delivery which seamed away and edged behind.
The biggest scalp was in his next over, however, when a full-length delivery jagged back in off the seam and caught the edge of Kevin Pietersen’s bat and was taken by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara to leave England reeling on 60 for three.
Maharoof completed his match-winning display by ending Cook’s determined resistance in his final over, once again caught behind after he had battled for 25 overs to top score with 46.
Ravi Bopara and Graeme Swann halted the slide with a determined stand of 42.
Bopara survived three separate referrals to the television umpire for run-out appeals before Swann attempted to reverse sweep off-spinner Tillakaratne Dilshan and was caught at short third man.
His demise began a collapse of four wickets for six runs as Sri Lanka completed their victory with 15.1 overs remaining.
The architect of the hosts’ competitive score was captain Mahela Jayawardene, who’s 66 from 74 balls built the platform which enabled the bat to be swung in the final overs.
Jayawardene forged half-century partnerships with Sangakkara and Chamara Silva and set up Sri Lanka for what could have been a formidable total after they reached 150 for two after 30 overs.
After Jayawardene picked out Owais Shah on the cover boundary with seven overs remaining, Sri Lanka lost five wickets in as many overs and it took Maharoof’s late hitting to help them to their challenging total.