Sri Lanka offer scare but Livingstone leads England to series win

By Sports Desk June 24, 2021

Liam Livingstone led England to a Twenty20 series win over Sri Lanka despite the tourists threatening a comeback in Thursday's second match.

In the absence of Jos Buttler, who was nursing a calf injury, Livingstone's 29 from 26 balls ensured an eighth consecutive victory at Sophia Gardens in this format.

After Sri Lanka had posted 111-7, the lowest score England had ever conceded over 20 overs, the hosts survived a wobble high up the order and a rain delay in Cardiff to post 108-5 and win by five wickets via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

Sam Curran (1-8) produced a finish arguably more worthy of Wembley Stadium to run out Danushka Gunathilaka, side-footing the ball right into the stumps as England made a solid start after losing the toss.

Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis brought up a partnership of 50 from 53 balls, but the Sri Lanka captain was gone off the next delivery from Mark Wood, a reverse sweep coming right off the toe of the bat and straight to Eoin Morgan.

Wood then claimed two from two deliveries, Bairstow clearing the decks to catch a high ball from Mendis before Morgan was given a simple take at midwicket from Niroshan Dickwella. A hat-trick very nearly followed, Wanindu Hasaranga – who was later stumped by Bairstow from Adil Rashid's delivery – almost edging to slip.

Sri Lanka did at least get to three figures in the final over, Isuru Udana finishing on 19 after a huge swing for six cleared the stands, and when Bairstow and Dawid Malan fell for the loss of eight runs, England's routine-looking chase suddenly seemed uncertain.

Morgan was caught for 11 before Sam Billings and Livingstone steadied the ship, England reaching 69-4 before rain halted proceedings.

Once play resumed with a revised target of 103, Livingstone read a full ball from Dushmantha Chameera and hooked an exquisite shot into the stands to calm any lingering nerves.

Billings was skittled by Hasaranga (2-20) but it mattered little, Curran smashing a six to settle the contest just as the rain began to fall again.

Sri Lanka far too brittle with the bat

England's fifth consecutive T20 win over Sri Lanka had looked nailed on, but it became rather more nail-biting as Hasaranga led an accomplished early attack.

Ultimately, it was too little, too late after another poor batting effort. Sri Lanka entered this match with 28 sixes in T20 matches since the start of 2020, the lowest figure among Test nations, and Udana's final-over flourish produced the only boundaries they managed once Mendis had gone.

 

England make history

England have now won back-to-back multi-game bilateral men's T20 series on home soil for the first time, having beaten Australia 2-1 last September.

While Morgan could only manage 11 runs at a ground where he averaged 102 from his five previous innings, Livingstone and Wood stepped up with bat and ball to make Saturday's third match in Southampton a chance to throw off the shackles.

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