This was envisaged as a one-sided contest between a team who were expected to be title contenders and the other who were playing well below their potential. As England and Sri Lanka locked horns at Headingley, it seemed to be England’s game as Sri Lanka ambled along to 232 in their quota of overs. Yet, with the pitch slowing down, the hosts found the going hard and eventually folded 20 runs short of the target.
Leading Sri Lanka’s charge in the chase was veteran Lasith Malinga who picked up a four-wicket haul to decimate England’s bid to ace the target with little discomfort.
For Sri Lanka, who were shambolic in the lead up to the World Cup, this was a massive result. They had only won seven out of their fifty matches since the 2015 World Cup against India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England combined. Sri Lanka have a disastrous record in the format since the last World Cup with 26 wins in 89 matches.
Their win loss record of 0.456 is the second worst after West Indies in the format. They average 26.51 with the bat in the format in this time frame, the worst for any team, and have made a total of 14 hundreds in 89 matches.
They haven’t fared any better with the ball either with a team bowling average of 39.59 and an economy of 5.74. The economy is the worst for any team in this time frame with the ball.
Having said that, Sri Lanka have a record to rave about against England in World Cups of late. In the first seven times these teams faced off against each other in ODIs, England had reigned six times. But since 1999, England haven’t won a single game against Sri Lanka in World Cups with Sri Lanka winning in 2007, 2011, 2015 and now 2019.
England aren’t known to crumble in this manner at home. Since the 2015 World Cup, they have never lost a game chasing less than 275 at home. Away from home, they have lost just once in such scenarios – against Bangladesh in 2016.
Malinga’s incredible haul put him in an elite club in World Cups. He has 51 wickets in World Cups and is the fourth bowler after Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan and Wasim Akram to the feat.
Since the beginning of 2018, Sri Lanka have won just nine of their 30 ODIs while losing 20 of them. Two of those have come against Bangladesh while one each has come against Zimbabwe, Scotland and Afghanistan. To state that they have been underpar would be a credit to their dismal performances in the build up to the World Cup.
All of that changed against England and Sri Lanka will come back knowing that on their day, they still have it in them to beat top teams. Of course, they have a lot of work to do to become the better version of themselves but for now, they will take confidence from a massive win.