Jason Roy’s 162 helps England seal series
The English opener looked in ominous touch as he crafted his second century of the series to keep his team ahead with the rain threat looming throughout their tall chase.
The hosts lost their regular opener Alex Hales to a back injury during Sri Lanka’s innings. Moeen Ali, promoted to the vacant slot, failed to impress as Nuwan Pradeep picked up an early wicket to put Sri Lanka on top. Roy, however, had other plans.
With brief spells of drizzle constantly threatening the possibility of another forced break, Roy mixed caution with aggression and stayed nearly till the end to propel England to a comprehensive win with 11 balls to spare in the 42-overs-per-side contest. The opener hardly put a foot wrong and ensured England kept up with the required run rate. He raced to his century, off just 74 balls, that all but knocked Sri Lanka out of the game.
The 25-year-old stitched a valuable 149-run stand for the second wicket with Joe Root (65) to revive the chase after the early loss. Though he scored at a strike rate of over 100, Root operated under the shadow of his record-breaking partner-in-crime.
When nothing seemed to be working, Dasuna Gunathilaka, a part-timer, got the visitors the much-needed breakthrough but it was, probably, too late for his team. Though the home team required another 141 post Root’s dismissal, Roy went on to better his previous best score of 112 not out – scored in the second game of the series – with his maiden 150 to bring the equation down to 55 required off 47.
The Surrey batsman surpassed David Gower’s 158 to register England’s highest individual score in ODI cricket but narrowly missed the 26-year-old English record of all-time highest by Robin Smith’s 167 not out against Australia in 55-over game in 1993. Nonetheless, he walked out to a standing ovation from his home crowd and teammates.
With another 27 required off 25 balls, Bairstow (29 not out) and Jos Buttler (17 not out) finished off the formalities that propelled England to the series win.
Earlier in the day, four Sri Lankan batsmen – Kusal Mendis, Dasuna Gunathilaka, Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews – scored quick-fire half-centuries to help the team post a competitive 305 for 5.
Sri Lanka were cruising at 127 for the loss of Kusal Perera’s wicket in 18.1 overs when showers forced the players off the field for over two hours.
Put in to bat, Sri Lanka suffered an early blow when Johnny Bairstow ran Perera out for just one in the second over. Mendis, however, attacked from the word go and posted a brisk half-century – his second consecutive fifty of the series – off just 44 deliveries. Gunathilaka kept him good company as the duo added 128 runs for the second wicket, ensuring Sri Lanka fought back quickly after an early wicket.
Gunathilaka raced to his first fifty of the series, off 51 balls, at the end of the 19th over after the rain break. However, Adil Rashid helped the home team pull things back with the wickets of both the set batsmen in successive overs. He got rid of Mendis as Liam Plunkett pulled off an exceptional catch in cover region when the batsman was on 77. In his next over, Rashid had Gunathilaka caught by Moeen Ali, at mid-off, to reduce Sri Lanka to 158 for 3.
Chandimal and Mathews then ensured that there was no wobble and continued to build the innings. The captain and vice-captain duo quickly added 87 runs for the fourth wicket to take the visitors close to the 250-run mark. En route, the vice-captain registered his third consecutive half-century and the pair posted its sixth 50-plus partnership on the trot.
David Willey, coming back into the attack for his final spell, helped the hosts put the brakes on the run flow once again, by breaking the flourishing Chandimal-Mathews partnership with the former’s wicket.
The in-form Mathews stayed till the end to ensure Sri Lanka didn’t falter in death overs. He carried on from where he had left off in the previous game and took his side past 300 for the first time in the series. The icing on the cake were the three back-to-back boundaries, off Plunkett, in the penultimate over, the first of which helped the Sri Lankan skipper bring up his 31st ODI fifty and power his side to 305 for 5 in 50 overs.
The rain break in between meant two more runs were added to their total on the basis of Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method but the score failed to test England’s in-form batting order.