Mahela Jayawardene put his struggles in the Test series firmly behind him with a fluent and dominant 72 from 57 balls, as Stuart Broad’s maiden outing as England Twenty20 captain ended in a thumping nine-wicket defeat at Bristol. On a stodgy wicket which rewarded only the purest of strokeplayers, Jayawardene was joined in a 97-run stand for the second wicket by Kumar Sangakkara, who made 43, and together they trumped the 83 in 8.5 overs with which Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen had briefly raised English hopes of a competitive total.
In a clash between the current holders of the World Twenty20 and the hosts of the next edition in 2012, the gulf in expertise seemed as yawning as had been the case in the last limited-overs meeting between these teams, the World Cup quarter-final in Colombo back in March. With the honourable exception of England’s third-wicket pair, who batted supremely but fell in quick succession, England were feckless with the bat and jittery with the ball. Sri Lanka, by contrast, simply did what they had to do, and wrapped up the contest with 16 balls to spare.
The tone of England’s performance was set in the opening exchanges. Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb hadn’t batted together since the final of the World Twenty20 in Barbados 13 months ago, but whereas their belligerent strokeplay had served a purpose on the flat decks of the Caribbean, here it translated as rank slogging, and never looked like paying off. Lumb top-edged a hoick to depart for 2 from six balls, Kieswetter slapped a drive to mid-off for a seven-ball 4. At 12 for 2 after 16 deliveries, the momentum had been squandered there and then.
The contrast when Sri Lanka batted could not have been starker. Admittedly Jayawardene was given a kick-start by the glut of nerves on display, as Broad stepped back from the new-ball honours to leave the stage to two players making their first home appearances, Chris Woakes and Jade Dernbach. However, Jayawardene had rushed along to 27 from 15 balls before the veteran Sanath Jayasuriya had faced his second delivery.
A contentious selection at the age of 41, Jayasuriya eventually drove loosely to cover to give Dernbach his maiden international wicket, but Woakes oozed nerves as he leaked 23 runs in two overs, and 31 in three all told. The shot of the innings, and one that summed up the match perfectly, was an effortless drive over long-on by Jayawardene off Woakes that just kept on rising all the way over the rope. Panache, not power, was the order of the day.
Who knows what Ian Bell made of it all. England’s most free-flowing batsman in the Test series was surprisingly overlooked for this contest, and his non-selection looked even more of an oversight after England had racked up six single-figure scores out of nine dismissals. Pietersen and Morgan, who had produced elegant half-centuries in the third Test at the Rose Bowl, managed to translate their fluent form with the utmost ease. Given half a chance, Bell would surely have done likewise.
KP and Morgan managed seven fours and five sixes between them, but none was more impressive than Pietersen’s first – a premeditated clip through midwicket off a regulation off-stump delivery. It was the stamp of class that has been missing from his game in recent months, and one over later, Morgan showed the sloggers how to hit the ball out of the ground, when he launched into a length delivery from Suranga Lakmal, and lifted it with the straightest of bats, back over the bowler’s head.
Had either player built towards a century, it could have been a completely different scenario. Instead they both fell in the space of eight deliveries, whereupon the recalled Samit Patel produced probably the most crass moment of the match. All the jibes about his failed bleep tests suddenly seemed utterly justified as he dawdled out of his crease after cutting a ball straight to point, and was barely in the frame as the shy came in to whip off his bails.
Ravi Bopara chipped and chivvied for 22 deliveries without ever looking entirely at ease or in form, and when he was bowled to give Jayasuriya his second wicket, the remainder of the innings was as soggy as the English summer. Luke Wright flapped and fell for 9 from 12 balls; Woakes top-edged a Lasith Malinga slower ball to mid-on, while Broad’s maiden innings as captain ended with a run-out for 0. England managed one boundary in the last eight overs, and no runs off the bat in Malinga’s last six balls. They were lapses that no side can afford against a one-day outfit of Sri Lanka’s quality.