HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka: Opener Moeen Ali hit a dazzling 58 off 40 balls to inspire England to a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the rain-affected third one-day international in Hambantota on Wednesday (Dec 3).
The tourists, chasing a revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 236 in 35 overs, cruised home with eight balls to spare to record their first win in the seven-match series.
Kumar Sangakkara became only the fourth batsman in history to surpass 13,000 one-day runs as Sri Lanka scored 242-8 in a game reduced to 35 overs-a-side when heavy rain interrupted play after just two overs.
The 37-year-old left-hander reached the landmark when he took a single off Chris Woakes to move to 13 and celebrated by top-scoring with 63 in the innings.
England skipper Alastair Cook was pleased to have got a win on the board but hoped there would not be a downside to the win and he would be suspended for England’s slow over rate.
“It’s hard when the ball goes everywhere and it is such a big ground,” said Cook. “It takes a while for the batsman to walk out so hopefully people will be kind to me and hopefully I will get away with it.”
His Sri Lanka counterpart Angelo Mathews was pleased at the target they set but felt let down by the bowling attack. “The spinners found it difficult as it was a bit wet but we put on a poor show in the field today,” said Mathews. “We had a poor bowling performance and with the catches and no-balls, it cost us the game. But we’re not going to panic after one game – we’ve got to bounce back hard.”
Ali smashed five sixes and two boundaries at the top of the order before Joe Root and man of the match Jos Buttler put on a match-winning stand of 84 off 64 balls for the unbroken sixth wicket. Buttler hit 55 off 37 balls and Root chipped in with a run-a-ball 48 after the tourists had lost half their side by the 24th over for 152 runs.
Cook contributed 34 in an opening stand of 84 with Ali before he was dismissed in the 12th over, caught by Sangakkara off seamer Dhammika Prasad. The run out of Ali in the 15th over following a mix-up with Alex Hales triggered a collapse in which England lost four key wickets for just 49 runs.
But Root and Buttler stepped in to turn the game around in dramatic fashion as the Sri Lankan bowling wilted under their assault. The fourth match will be played on Sunday in Colombo where Sri Lanka had won the first two games.
Sri Lanka plundered 62 runs in the last five overs, but Root and Buttler ensured England’s run-rate too did not slacken. Sangakkara now lies behind three retired batsmen in the all-time list led by Sachin Tendulkar of India, who made 18,426 runs in 463 ODI matches.
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting has 13,704 runs in 375 ODI matches and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka has 13,430 runs in 445 games.
Sangakkara, who made his international debut in 2000, is also just 12 runs short of completing 12,000 Test runs. He has made 11,988 runs in 128 Tests.
Sri Lanka were without senior batsman Mahela Jayawardene, who is not playing due to personal reasons. He was replaced by Thilina Kandamby.
Players wore black arm-bands to mourn Australian batsman Phil Hughes, whose funeral took place earlier in the day. Hughes died in Sydney last Thursday from injuries sustained after being hit on the skull by a rising ball during a domestic match.