By Ayyaz Malik

England came into this game looking to level the series after an impressive five wicket win the last time. The tourists came into this one unchanged as they looked to carry on the winning momentum. As for the hosts, Suranga Lakmal came in place of Ajantha Mendis. Dhamika Prassad also made way for Seekkuge Prasanna and at the top of the order, out of sorts opener, Kusal Pererra is dropped so Dinesh Chandimal came in as the hosts looked to clinch the series with a win in Pallekele.

Kumar Sangakarra’s brilliant hundred help helped Sri Lanka win the seven match series with one game still to play
Kumar Sangakarra’s brilliant hundred help helped Sri Lanka win the seven match series with one game still to play

The hosts won the toss and elected to bat, it initially did not appear as the right decision as Mahela Jayawardena, who was opening in place of form Kusal Pererra, departed cheaply. Jayawardena seemed to have caught the same ‘bug’ as Pererra, the usually reliable Jaywardena, departed cheaply to leave his side in early trouble.

However a second wicket stand of 153 turned the game back in favour of the hosts; chief tormentor in the last game Kumar Sangakarra was up to the same ‘tricks’ in this game as the Sri Lankan wicket keeper and Tilkeratne Dilshan were threatening to take the game from England.

Thankfully for England they managed to get a wicket at a good time; Ravi Bopara taking the catch of James Tredwell’s bowling to remove Dilshan. After the loss of the second wicket Sri Lanka were in danger of throwing away a tremendous start.

Two further wickets fell before the score reached 200, England were looking to get a foothold back in the game – as for Sri Lanka their middle order was on the verge of anther collapse. With Sangakarra still at the crease, Sri Lanka knew they could post a competitive total.

The next wicket to fall would be that of Sangakarra’s, the veteran wicketkeeper managed to score yet another hundred in the midst of the carnage that was happening at the other end as wickets were falling at regular intervals.

The 39 year old eventually departed for a run a ball 112, at that stage Sri Lanka were 243-5 and in a good position to set a total which would be difficult for England to chase. The hosts went on to make 292-7 which was always going to be a difficult total to chase considering the hosts bowling attack.

A near run a ball 35 of just 31 balls from Dinesh Chandimal was another contributing factor to the Sri Lankan’s getting to such a score.

England needing 293 to level the seven match series got off to the worst possible start. Alistair Cook’s struggles continued as he dropped the second ball, James Taylor fell cheaply and Moeen Ali fell for an attractive 34 – but the tourists lost their first three wickets for 50 runs and were on the back foot very early into this run chase.

Just when the tourists looked to be on the road to recovery Sri Lanka made the break through with Lakmal having Ravi Bopara caught behind by centurion Sangakarra to break a fourth wicket partnership that was worth 84.

Just to make matters worse for England they lost another wicket without a run being scored. At 84-5 it felt like the game was up – and sadly it was. Despite a battling 55 from Joe Root and an equally as gutsy 41 from all-rounder Chris Woakes, England lost wickets at regular intervals and eventually fell short of their target by 90 runs.

With that win Sri Lanka take the series with a game to play, as for England the plus point they can take out of this game is that they only have to bowl at Sangakarra once more in this series!

The seventh and final one day international is on Tuesday in Columbo.