Bengaluru: England needed a return to their aggressive ways but they produced a cagey batting effort to get bowled out for a modest 156 against a confident Sri Lanka in their World Cup match here on Thursday.
Having logged just two points from four games, England were expected to show some urgency but the defending champions struggled massively on a pitch that offered spongy bounce after batting by choice.
But more than the surface or the enterprising Sri Lankan bowlers, the English batsmen battled inner demons, save Ben Stokes who made a gritty 43 off 73 balls.
Opener Dawid Malan who milked 45 runs with Jonny Bairstow, could be excused though.
Angelo Mathews, an injury replacement for pacer Matheesha Pathirana, put him in two minds with a delivery that bounced from the length just enough to take an edge off his bat to Kusal Mendis behind the stumps.
However, Malan during his 25-ball 28 showed that the pitch is not a hard one to bat on while essaying some gorgeous drives through the off-side.
Unfortunately, the route was not taken by several subsequent batters and they were also culpable of playing some really poor cricket.
Joe Root got run out while taking off for a non-existing single, captain Jos Buttler made an expansive drive outside the off-stump off Lahiru Kumara to get caught behind and Bairstow never timed the pull off Kasun Rajitha to find Dhananjaya de Silva at mid-on.
Liam Livingstone played the wrong line off Kumara to get trapped leg-before. Moeen Ali went for a cut off Mathews when there was no width on offer, and Kusal Perera snaffled the simple offering at point.
These batsmen were expected to lead England’s batting charge in a must-win match, and they failed to respond to the situation.
Stokes did try on his own. He had the assistance of fortune as well when Sadeera Samarawickrama floored a tough chance at point off Kumara when the all-rounder was on 12. England were 86 for 5 then.
The left-hander played some archetypal power-packed shots through either side, but the day was not made for a one-man show that Stokes is known to produce.
His dismissal, caught by substitute Dushan Hemantha, at deep of Kumara, effectively ended England’s chances of posting a challenging total despite them having an extra-long batting line-up.
Adil Rashid’s comical run out while backing up too far could be taken as a symbol of England’s drudges with the bat on the day.
But the inept batting display of England should not rob the Lankan bowlers of the just credit.
Kumara (3 for 35) has the tendency to be all over the place but when he hits his lengths correctly, the right-arm pacer is a different beast, who can also crank up some serious speed to hustle the batters.
And hustled England were indeed on the day. They will hope for some more spunk from their bowlers to conjure an unlikely win and remain in the semifinals race.
(Published 26 October 2023, 12:12 IST)