This time there would be no collapse and no last-ball thriller. Instead England served up the most comprehensive 10-wicket win ever witnessed, as Alex Hales and Jason Roy, in plundering unbeaten centuries, knocked off 256 with 95 balls to spare to win the second one-day international with Sri Lanka at a canter.
It was simply a brutal exhibition of hitting on an Edgbaston pitch offering far in excess of the 254 for seven the tourists managed batting first, with Hales finishing with 133 from 110 balls, his third hundred in one-day internationals, and Roy 112 from 95 for his second, with Eoin Morgan’s men now 1-0 up in the series going into third instalment in Bristol after the two sides tied the opener at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
The pair’s violent cruise – one akin to the shellackings that Sri Lankan openers of yesteryear would hand out in past meetings between the two sides – saw them compile the highest 50-over partnership by an England pairing for any wicket, surpassing the 250 made by Andrew Strauss (creator of the Super Series points system which the home side have now wrapped up with four games left) and Jonathan Trott against Bangladesh on this ground in 2010.
Looking beyond the parochial and taking a more global outlook, this was also the highest successful chase by an international side without losing a wicket, some 20 runs more than New Zealand’s against Zimbabwe in Harare last year and only the seventh in excess of 200.
While Hales top-scored, having unleashed 10 fours and six sixes in a reminder of what destruction he can bring after a promisingly watchful display in the Test series, it would be Roy, crasher of seven fours and four sixes, who was named man of the match, having shone in the field earlier with a pair of run outs as Adil Rashid’s two for 34 from 10 overs sucked the life out of Sri Lanka’s batsmen.
“We keep things simple, we go out there and try and do the best for the team,” said Roy on his burgeoning partnership with Hales. “There is no rocket science to it, we just watch the ball and hit the ball. But it’s a very rewarding feeling and something I won’t forget for a long time.”
His captain, Morgan, added: “The challenge in the field is starving the team of runs and we did that by building pressure and taking wickets. The chase after that was remarkable. I have never experienced anything like it. It was outstanding and imposing. They played brilliant and very entertaining cricket.”
On a day when umpire Bruce Oxenford sported a custom-made polycarbonate shield on his left arm like a riot policeman – a response by the Australian official, who first used it in the Indian Premier League, to the dangers of balls flying back down the pitch – it was England who ran amok, with this victory owing as much to the stranglehold effected by the bowlers as the thunderbats of Hales and Roy.
Rashid stood out above all, the leg-spinner bowling with skill and control for the second successive match to apply a ligature to the middle overs, claiming the wickets of Sri Lanka’s captain, Angelo Mathews, for 44 made in spite of a hamstring injury, and the dangerous Seekkuge Prasanna in the space of three deliveries.
That Rashid was free to twirl away for an unbroken spell came in part down to the efforts of his Yorkshire team-mate Liam Plunkett, who after the tourists had won the toss and come out swinging, came on as first change in the seventh over to remove Danushka Gunathilaka caught behind for 22 – after he had forced the switch by taking David Willey for two straight sixes – before Kusal Mendis was trapped lbw for a duck.
With Roy’s balletic pick up and throw, on the turn then running out opener Kusal Perera on 37, Sri Lanka found themselves in need of a rebuild through two senior batsmen, Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. Their stand of 82, a somewhat tin-legged affair as the latter picked up a similar injury, would be snuffed out when Mathews went to sweep Rashid and give Plunkett the simplest of takes.
Prasanna - he of the 24-ball half-century at Trent Bridge – then fell to an athletic diving catch at long-on by Willey before Chandimal, needing to provide an innings of substance ran himself out in the 40th over as Roy pounced at midwicket and Jos Buttler whipped off the bails with ease.
With Willey cleaning up Farveez Maharoof’s stumps for two to make Sri Lanka 191 for seven, it took a 46-ball half-century from Upul Tharanga late in the innings to give their bowlers something, anything to defend. But on a pitch so true and against an England pair revved upand looking to set the record straight after Tuesday’s failure by the top order, it was never going to be enough.
Hales offered a couple of tough chances on six to Perera, stood up to the stumps off the medium pace of Maharoof and keeping wicket only due to Chandimal’s injury, with a third not arriving until the right-hander was on 126, when he was grassed at point by Gunathilaka.
He and Roy brought up their centuries from 91 and 92 balls respectively, as a packed Edgbaston rocked to their beat. England promised to go harder in this match than before and delivered, with a flurry of sixes both straight down the ground and heaved into the Hollies Stand.
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