Having limited Sri Lanka to just 111 from their 20 overs on a sluggish surface, England slumped to 36 for four, and required Liam Livingstone to bail them out.
Either side of a rain delay that saw their target reduced to 103 from 18 overs, Livingstone put on 54 from 40 balls with Sam Billings – in the side for Wednesday’s star batter Jos Buttler – to carry England to the brink of victory. After Billings was dismissed, they made it home by five wickets with 11 balls to spare
Despite a superb bowling performance, England might consider this something of an escape. After opting to bat first for the second time in two nights, Sri Lanka’s 111 was the lowest score ever made in a full T20 innings against England. They made a mighty fist of defending it.
Here’s some talking points as England wrapped up the series:
This was a rare appearance on terrestrial TV for the national team, but nothing about it was terribly beautiful.
First, Buttler, star of the win on Wednesday, withdrew with a calf injury. On a tired pitch, Sri Lanka put in an ugly batting performance, and England’s top order weren’t much better. Then the rain intervened. At least England eventually secured victory, but it had not been the greatest advert for the game.
Sri Lanka got off to a desperately slow start – and they never caught up.
They failed to score a boundary in the powerplay, which brought them just 26 runs. It was the first time that England had not conceded a boundary in the first six overs of a T20, and the first time Sri Lanka had failed to score one.
The arrival of Mark Wood’s extra pace in the eighth over saw them finally score a four from the 46th ball of the innings, but there were only a total of six boundaries in the innings. Skipper Kusal Perera was dismissed by Adil Rashid in the 13th over, having faced 25 balls, and failed to hit a four.
In the first game of the series, England scored as many boundaries in the powerplay (10) as Sri Lanka did in the whole innings. Jos Buttler scored nine on his own. In the second game, Sri Lanka got even worse. Isuru Udana (only the second player to hit a boundary) took 14 from Chris Jordan’s final over, but that could not mask a woeful display of batting.
England’s two left-arm seamers had given them a superb start, bowling the first five overs. David Willey conceded just 10 runs from his three overs, constantly threatening, while Sam Curran did the business with his left arm and right foot.
As the Welsh crowd sang “Football’s Coming Home” (go figure), Curran’s deft right peg saw Danushka Gunathilaka run out by a distance, sparking massive English celebrations. In his next over, Curran had Avishka Fernando caught at deep square-leg.
Kusal Mendis might have scored a boundary off him, but Sri Lanka just could not get to grips with Wood’s pace. With the keeper stood on the 30-yard circle, Wood bowled at frightening pace. Sri Lanka barely hit him in front of square, to the point that Eoin Morgan spread two men out on the third boundary.
Wood’s two wickets came in successive balls. Mendis, who had just xarted him for another four, skied, with keeper Jonny Bairstow taking a fine catch, then the recalled Niroshan Dickwella tamely lobbed to cover.
Wanindu Hasaranga kept the hat-trick ball out, but was soon gone to Rashid, who was causing all sorts of trouble at the other end. After eight overs, Sri Lanka have still not hit a boundary off him.
England did not live up to their reputation as a fearsome batting unit. Binura Fernando bowled Bairstow, keeping and opening in place of the injured Jos Buttler, then Dushmantha Fernando trapped Dawid Malan lbw. That continued a worrying recent run for Malan, and left England eight for two.
By the start ion the eighth over, England had lost two more wickets, and in trouble. Morgan picked out backward-point off Udana, the Jason Roy got greedy against Hasaranga.
Once again, Sri Lanka’s bowlers performed creditably, but just did not have enough to bowl at.
England’s collapse brought together Billings and Livingstone, neither of whom would currently make their first team. They batted sensibly and ran well to keep England up with the rate until the rain came with 43 required from 48 balls. The target was adjusted to 34 from 36 with two overs lost.
Both played impressive strokes – Billings cutting hard, Livingstone ramping for six – before the former was bowled by the impressive Hasaranaga. Out came Curran, who only knows one way, launching a six to finish the job with rain falling again.