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  • England v Sri Lanka

Hales knock in vain as Sri Lanka clinch victory

The Report by Andrew McGlashan at The Oval
May 20, 2014
Alex Hales made 66 but was dismissed by a brilliant slow delivery from Lasith Malinga © Getty Images
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Sri Lanka 183 for 7 (Thisara 49, Thirimanne 40) beat England 174 for 7 (Hales 66, Malinga 3-28) by nine runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The world champions, Sri Lanka, began their T20 life without Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara by securing a nine-run victory at The Oval as Lasith Malinga's brilliance at the death ensured Alex Hales, and England, could not repeat the grand chase they managed in Chittagong.

It was Hales' dismissal to Malinga in the 17th over by a smart slower ball which made Sri Lanka strong favourites, but with Ravi Bopara in the middle and the equation down to 28 off 12 balls it was far from impossible. Then, however, Malinga produced a pinpoint penultimate over which cost just four runs (in comparison to the equivalent in Sri Lanka's innings which cost 22) and provided the less-assured Suranga Lakmal with some breathing space. Malinga may not always appear the most involved of captains - occasionally putting himself at long-off - but knew he had his individual skills up his sleeve.

The key innings came from Thisara Perera who bludgeoned 49 off 20 deliveries having been dropped on 20 by Michael Carberry at cover. Six of Perera's next eight deliveries went to the boundary, which included him taking 22 off the 19th over, bowled by Chris Jordan, who had been on the receiving end of Carberry's error.

Thisara was prevented from reaching a half-century by some quick thinking from Harry Gurney, who was alert enough to remove a stump from the ground to complete a run-out off the final ball of the innings after Thisara's straight drive at demolished the timber. However, his late surge made the difference between Sri Lanka's eventual total of 183 and one perhaps 15 runs lower.

He was not the only Sri Lanka batsman to impress, however, and with an eye on the post Jayawardene-Sangakkara era the fluent innings of debutant Kithuruwan Vithanage and Lahiru Thirimanne bode well for the future. The pair ensured that although Sri Lanka shipped regular wickets they maintained a healthy scoring rate of around eight an over.

Hales, who hit an unbeaten 116 when these two sides met in the World T20, had only faced four balls by the start of the fourth over but then top-edged Lakmal for six before swivel-pulling him for another boundary. England's chase in Chittagong had been 0 for 2 but then Eoin Morgan helped form a crucial stand: this time Hales did not find a regular partner. When he brought up his fifty off 32 balls his partnership with Jos Buttler was beginning to motor, only for Buttler to find deep midwicket from a delivery he would have expected to send into Archbishop Tenison's School.

Carberry's day had not get any better when he carved to third man for 7 but England were actually ahead of where Sri Lanka had been after the Powerplay, on 49 for 2. Ian Bell, playing his first T20 for anyone since 2011, had begun to forge a decent tempo alongside Hales when he lofted to cover in Malinga's first over two balls after being dropped at slip. Thirimanne's error did not match Carberry's.

There was an outstanding piece of fielding to put Sri Lanka in control when Eoin Morgan mistimed a low full toss towards long-off where Lakmal took a magnificent low catch as he ran in from the boundary. It left England 85 for 4 and needing 99 off 51 balls, which proved out of reach.

Sri Lanka left little in the tank during their innings - just as it should be in T20. Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled the first ball of the match for four and then tried to 'Dilscoop' Chris Woakes' opening delivery.

Gurney was the most impressive of England's bowlers throughout the innings. On his T20I debut he removed Dilshan with his fourth delivery and his opening two overs cost just six runs to provide a measure of control. He would later return to show the value of having trained himself at death bowling in county cricket.

By and large, though, Sri Lanka kept swinging - some of it fluently and some of it less so, with an abundance of edges to third man - whereas there was still an element of England trying to consolidate for short periods.

Vithanage, who pinged five sixes against Sussex two days ago, opened his T20 account with a lofted on-drive and took three boundaries in a row off Bopara. He could have been stumped next ball but Buttler could not gather a tough take and after another boundary - reverse swept of James Tredwell - he picked out deep point.

Thirimanne was scoring at less than a run-a-ball before putting Tredwell into the stands and was beginning to kick on when, in far from the only case of a full toss getting a wicket, he swung Gurney into the deep. By then Thisara had already started to find his stride and the big finish was still to come.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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