A Mahela Jayawardene-inspired Sri Lanka went along way to erasing the memory of their first ODI loss by thumping England by 69 runs at Headingley in the second contest of the series.
The tourist’s top order failed miserably at The Oval, and while Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal fell early, a 159-run stand between Jayawardene and Kuamr Sangakkara propelled Sri Lanka to 309, a total England never got near.
Jayawardene, cashing in on Graeme Swann’s early spill in the slips, offered very little via the aerial route and preferred a string of handsome ground strokes for his 14 fours, no sixes.
The left-handed Sangakkara was equally intent to caress the ball through backward point rather than heave over midwicket and surrounds.
England, at times, went through the motions, with Cook seemingly content to chase 300-odd rather than try restrict the hosts to 280 or so. Their display in the field didn’t help either, with a slew of overthrows and another dropped catch – this time a tough one to Cook in the covers when Jayawardene was on 119 – hurting the hosts’ cause.
True to form, Swann ended the three-figure alliance with some superb flight to deceive Sangakkara for Craig Kieswetter’s stumping,
67 runs later at a rate of 9.80 to the over later, with England’s seamers unable to stop Angelo Mathews and Jayawardene from cranking 59 runs from the batting powerplay, Swann returned to have Jayawardene out in similar fashion to Sangakkara.
His 15th and highest ODI score in the bank for his 150 balls and 14 fours, the 34-year-old former skipper departed an exhausted man after a rare advance to – and swing at – the spinner got the better of him.
Mathews kept going, taking full advantage of the batsman-friendly track and the full fodder served up by Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan for his 46 not out off 30 balls.
While Broad went without a wicket for his third international on the trot and again proved expensive, Bresnan fetched all of 70 runs for his nine shoddy overs.
Chasing what would have been their highest total on home soil, England began promisingly, with Cook and Craig Kieswetter both making themselves comfortable with a few early boundaries.
However, Kieswetter’s aggression proved his downfall when he pulled a short ball from Suranga Lakmal down the throat of fine leg.
The opener’s dismissal began a trend amongst the English top order, with a number of players getting in only to fall when they needed to push on.
Indeed, Cook perished in just such a scenario, coming down the track and holing out to wide long off. The Essex man was just two short of his fifty, and his strike rate of 92 together with the manner in which the runs were scored gave the best sign yet that he is not far from becoming a more than capable one-day player.
Kevin Pietersen’s (13) stay at the crease was brief while Jonathan Trott looked promising for his 39 before he was bowled by a beautiful yorker from Lakmal.
Eoin Morgan (52) delivered another classy performance and for a time the Irishman looked to be pushing the came in England’s direction as his 37-ball fifty upped the run rate and forced Dilshan to switch from spin to pace as he looked for a breakthrough.
The change was not a successful one, with the middle order man taking a linking to whatever he was served up with.
Needing to put an end to the Morgan barrage, Suraj Randiv eventually got his man, getting one to turn and bounce past the bat of Morgan as he looked to drive. With the batsman out of his ground Sangakkara whipped off the bails after a brief moment of worry to secure what was a result-sealing dismissal.
From then on in wickets tumbled with even greater regularity as the lower order capitulated with Ian Bell (35) perishing as the run rate skyrocketed and his partners perished.
The victory sees the series level at 1-1, and after the highs of The Oval, England will be the ones looking worryingly at where they stand.