Having opted to bat first, Sri Lanka were unable to build partnerships and only managed 129, which England chased down with ease. Jason Roy and Jos Buttler put on 80 for the first wicket, with Buttler still there on 68 not out as England reached their target two wickets down with 17 balls to spare.
The series continues in Cardiff tomorrow, and concludes on Saturday at the Ageas Bowl.
Here are some talking points from the first match:
Somehow, Chris Woakes has not played a T20i for six years. He didn’t play T20 cricket at all between August 2018 and April this year. It is equally weird that he has not played for England since last September, when he was named Player of the Summer. He is back in this squad because Jofra Archer, Reece Topley and perhaps even Saqib Mahmood are injured, and beat David Willey to the final place in this side.
The brief was to bowl in the powerplay, and – as he does in ODIs – Woakes did that very well. His first over cost two, his second seven, and he returned in the 13th for another tidy one. He was England’s only wicketless bowler, but that was not a reflection of his performance.
Livingstone’s positive spin
Eoin Morgan said on the eve of the game that he sees Liam Livingstone as “an all-rounder”. He beat Moeen Ali to that slot in the side, and was only ever going to be required to bowl a couple of overs.
He got his two, and made full use of them. Not just because he took the wicket of Kusal Mendis, plumb lbw and conceded just nine runs, but because he exhibited showed off a point of difference, too.
Because Livingstone bowls both off-breaks and leg-breaks, he can – to an extent – take “match-ups” out of the question. Morgan might be a little concerned about bowling Moeen’s offies to two right-handers, but if Livingstone can bowl leggies to them – as he did to dismiss Mendis – and offies to the lefties, as he did to Kusal Perera, he provides wonderful flexibility.
Livingstone dove-tailed neatly with Adil Rashid, too. By bowling two good overs in the first half of the innings, Rashid could be held back. When he came on, with Sri Lanka in trouble, he provided two important blows, by dismissing Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga.
Sri Lanka were grateful for Dasun Shanaka’s fifty. He was dismissed off the final ball of the innings, but not before giving Jordan and the makeshift death bowler Sam Curran some tap in an impressive acceleration. He had 26 from 33 balls, but reached his half-century off 43. It was an innings that held together a wobbly showing, helping Sri Lanka to 129.
There was a telling stat that highlighted the ease with which England reached their target. Sri Lanka scored just 10 boundaries in their entire 50-over innings. England had matched by the end of the powerplay. At that stage, they were 61 for none, and coasting to their target.
Roy and Buttler smote plenty of boundaries, but also ran brilliantly between the wickets. They had shared 80 by the time Roy was caught by Gunathilaka, diving brilliantly to his right at mid-off.
Dawid Malan joined Buttler, and was a little circumspect in making seven off 14 before being bowled by Isuru Udana. England had struggled with Wanindu Hasaranga’s mix of googlies and leggies.
With Jonny Bairstow for company, Buttler was not circumspect, though, clumping 12 runs off Akila Dananjaya’s first three balls for 12 runs, to reach a 38-ball half-century. This was his ninth fifty opening the batting in t20 for England in T20s. Case closed.
The match ended with a moment of farce as, with the scores level, Buttler had a huge heave, and edged behind, where he was dropped by Perera. They ran the single, to complete a simple win.