Bhuvneshwar Kumar took four wickets as India eased to a 38-run win over Sri Lanka in the first T20 international on Sunday.

India posted 164-5 after they were asked to bat first in Colombo, with skipper Shikhar Dhawan's 46 and a 34-ball 50 from Suryakumar Yadav providing the bulk of the runs.

Dushmantha Chameera (2-24) and Wanindu Hasaranga (2-28) did the damage for Sri Lanka, but the majority of the home side's batsmen failed to fire after the interval.

Avishka Fernando (26) and Charith Asalanka (44) briefly gave Sri Lanka some hope, but Kumar (4-22) and Deepak Chahar (2-24) got the job done as the hosts were bowled out for 126 with nine balls to spare.

Sri Lanka were outclassed in their recent T20I series in England, which ended in a 3-0 loss, but even on home soil Mickey Arthur's side lack the batting firepower and they have now won just once in their previous 14 completed fixtures.

The second and third Twenty20 internationals in Colombo, both also at the R. Premadasa Stadium, take place on Tuesday and Thursday as both sides continue their preparations for the T20 World Cup later this year.

Kumar closes in on milestone

India seamer Kumar was cool during the business end of the match as he took three of the final four wickets to fall. He needs just one wicket to reach 50 in T20I action for India and become the fourth player to achieve this feat for the country.

Shanaka must deliver more

Sri Lanka lost their final six wickets for less than 15 runs and needed more from T20 captain Dasun Shanaka, who made a tame 14-ball 16. Shanaka is normally an aggressive middle-order batsman but his modest innings included just one four before he was stumped off the bowling of debutant Varun Chakravarthy.

Captain Temba Bavuma led the way with the bat as South Africa wrapped up a T20I series sweep against Ireland thanks to a 49-run victory in the third and final game.

The Proteas made it four wins on the spin in the shortest format – their best run since a five-match span between October 2018 and February 2019 – thanks to a dominant display at Stormont, despite making five changes to the team.

Bavuma struck his maiden T20I half-century, making 72 from 51 deliveries while opening the batting as South Africa posted an imposing total of 189-2.

Reeza Hendricks made 69 at the top of the order, helping put on 127 for the first wicket with his skipper. Ireland eventually broke the stand in the 16th over, though David Miller came out at three to produce a stunning late attack, blitzing 36 from just 17 deliveries.

The home team lost Kevin O'Brien to the ninth ball of their reply, setting the tone for wickets to fall at regular intervals. Andy Balbirnie top-scored with 27 before becoming one of three batsmen to be dismissed in the space of nine runs, ending any hope of an Irish victory as they slipped to 78-5.

George Linde, Lizaad Williams and Wiaan Mulder all claimed two wickets apiece but Ireland at least avoided being bowled out inside the distance, finishing up on 140-9.


Miller makes hay on tour

A late cameo in the third game completed an impressive series for Miller. The left-handed batsman finished up with 139 runs having been dismissed just once.

His strike-rate of 169.51 runs per 100 deliveries was the best for any South African who faced a minimum of 10 balls, aided by hitting 11 fours and six sixes.

Irish made to wait

Ireland's winless run in T20I action continues. It is now seven without success, with this result extending their longest drought in the format.

Even facing a much-changed line-up minus both Quinton de Kock and Tabraiz Shamsi, two pivotal players for the Proteas, they were well beaten having been far more competitive in the preceding 50-over fixtures between the nations.

Sri Lanka will be hoping a win in 50-over cricket can trigger a white-ball resurgence as they prepare to take on India in a three-match T20I series, beginning on Sunday in Colombo.

Half-centuries from Avishka Fernando and Bhanuka Rajapaksa helped Sri Lanka win the third and final ODI between the nations on Friday, just their second win in 11 outings.

They have struggled in T20 action too, winning just once in their previous 13 completed fixtures. Home advantage should help, yet they have not triumphed at the R. Premadasa Stadium – the venue for all three of the upcoming fixtures against India – in the shortest format since August 2018.

Runs were hard to come by on the recent tour of England, including being bowled out for 91 in the final match as the hosts completed an emphatic 3-0 sweep at the Ageas Bowl.

Sri Lanka at least avoided that fate against India in one-day action, aided by a turning track on Friday that allowed their spinners to trigger a batting collapse – the tourists lost their final seven wickets for just 68 runs following a rain delay.

They could also be boosted by the return of Wanindu Hasaranga, who missed the final ODI due to an injury concern.

India, meanwhile, remain without a number of their star names, so these games provide crucial opportunities for fringe players as they look to impress, particularly as this is a World Cup year.

Pushing the boundaries

Sri Lanka have hit a boundary once every 7.7 balls faced in the powerplay overs since the beginning of 2020 in T20I action, the worst rate for any team in that period. 

India have the third-slowest rate, taking 5.6 balls for every boundary. Captain Shikhar Dhawan will hope to help lower that number as he continues to lead the team, while Prithvi Shaw could get the chance to stake his claim for a regular top-order spot.

Positive spin can help India

Varun Chakravarthy could finally be handed his international debut in the series. India appeared keen to pick the mystery spinner against England in the T20I series on home soil earlier this year, yet concerns over his level of fitness ruled him out of contention.

The 29-year-old is a compelling option, though. He has taken 25 wickets in 21 matches in the Indian Premier League, 17 of which came in a 2020 campaign for the Kolkata Knight Riders that saw him finish with an economy rate of 6.84 runs per over.

Key series facts

– India are unbeaten against Sri Lanka in multi-game bilateral T20I series (W3 D1). India have beaten Sri Lanka in each of the past three such series, the most recent meeting being in January 2020.

– Sri Lanka have one win from their past 11 completed T20I matches against India (L10). The solitary triumph was achieved in March 2018 when the Lions beat the Men in Blue by five wickets at the very same venue this match is being played.

– Since the beginning of 2020, only 43 per cent of the runs scored by Sri Lanka in men's T20I matches have come via boundaries, the lowest rate for any team in that period.

– Dasun Shanaka has a batting dot ball rate of 48 per cent in T20I matches since the beginning of 2020. Only two players have a higher rate than the Sri Lankan (Chris Gayle at 53 per cent and Andre Fletcher at 51 per cent, minimum 100 balls faced).

– Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs five wickets to reach 50 in T20I action for India. He will become the fourth player to achieve this feat for his country, with his career-best figures seeing him take 5-24 against South Africa in 2018.

David Miller's 75 off 44 balls dragged South Africa back from 58-5 to reach 159-7 before Tabraiz Shamsi starred yet again to take 3-14 as he partnered with Bjorn Fortuin (3-16) to secure a 42-run victory and an unassailable 2-0 series lead against Ireland.

Despite losing the toss, Ireland started strongly as Paul Stirling removed Temba Bavuma and Janneman Malan without the Proteas scoring, before Mark Adair compounded further power-play misery by bowling Aiden Markram (eight off six balls) to leave the visitors 24-3 inside four overs.

Quinton de Kock's 27 off 20 balls offered counter-attacking hope but when he fell to Simi Singh's first delivery, South Africa looked nervy at 38-4 as they chased back-to-back T20I series wins for the first time since March 2019.

Miller, however, rebuilt for the visitors as he recorded his fourth T20I half-century and combined with Wiaan Mulder (36 off 26 balls) to put on 58 for the sixth wicket and guide his side to their first-innings total of 159-7.

Kevin O'Brien's lean spell then continued as he was caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Fortuin in the first over without troubling the scorers and that set the platform for another disappointing batting performance from Ireland.

George Dockrell, who was offered a lifeline on 12 by Markram's drop, scored 20 off as many deliveries but only he and Shane Getkate (24 off 18 balls) provided any resistance after Stirling had been removed for 19 off 23 balls by star spinner Shamsi.

In what looked like an identical repeat of the series opener, Andy Balbirinie's men batted timidly and appeared awestruck by the talent of Shamsi and Fortuin as they limped to 117 all out with three balls to spare.

Miller eradicates Stirling start

In 79 previous T20Is, Stirling had bowled 84 overs and taken just 17 wickets. But his two scalps, both caught by Josh Little in the first over, set Ireland off on a remarkable start.

But Miller, whose third fifty while batting at number six or lower in T20Is equalled the record set by Mohammad Nabi and Thisara Perera, provided an emphatic fightback to guide the visitors above par in Belfast.

The left-handed batsmen took 37 deliveries to reach the milestone but added 25 in his final seven as he blasted four sixes off Little's 20th over to finish strongly.

Spin it to win it, again

After spinning the Proteas to victory in Malahide with 4-27, the world's number-one ranked T20I bowler combined with Fortuin to dictate the Ireland chase.

Prior to this series, Shamsi's economy rate of 6.5 was the best among all bowlers to have bowled more than 10 T20I overs since the start of 2020, and the leg-spinner did that statistic no harm as he delivered 12 dot balls to go at just 3.5 an over during his spell.

While it was George Linde in Malahide, this time it was Fortuin who provided ample back-up to Shamsi as he bowled 18 dots to finish with an economy of just four an over.

Head coach Mark Boucher will hope to rouse his South Africa side for this week's T20I series against Ireland, conceding a lengthy limited stint away from home has taken its toll.

The Proteas diced with humiliation in the ODI rubber, as Ireland beat them in the 50-over format for the first time before centuries from Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock secured a 70-run win in the third match to snatch a 1-1 series draw.

South Africa moved from one bio-secure bubble to another, following their 3-2 T20I victory in the West Indies with the trip to Ireland, and those obligations have taken place amid a slew of awful news from back home.

A third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped South Africa, while Boucher's players wore black armbands for the third ODI to show solidarity with those affected by mounting scenes of violence.

"We weren't there the other day," Boucher said of the 43-run defeat to Ireland, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. "Our awareness was down; our intensity was down.

"We looked at quite a few things without making excuses. We had a long chat after the game and we said, 'Guys we are in a position where we can't afford to make excuses. You are playing for your country and you have to be up every game'."

South Africa only have these games – Monday's match at Malahide before back-to-back games in Belfast - and three more versus Sri Lanka before the T20 World Cup gets underway in Oman in October, not an ideal situation given a devilish Group 1 draw alongside England, Australia and West Indies.

However, if Boucher's players were to complain about being under-cooked, they would have few grounds for complaint alongside Ireland.

Andy Balbirnie's side have not played a T20I since last March, with proposed series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan falling foul of the pandemic.

Five matches against Zimbabwe follow this series before Ireland enter the Group A qualifier section alongside Sri Lanka, Namibia and the Netherlands at the T20 World Cup, from which two teams progress.

Shamsi looking to consolidate number one status

Irrespective of how ideal or otherwise their preparations have been, South Africa have their T20 World Cup trump card in Tabraiz Shamsi. The left-arm wrist spinner is ranked as the number one bowler in the world in the shortest international format and his economy rate of 6.5 since the beginning of 2020 is the best of anyone to have bowled in 10 or more innings.

 

O'Brien hoping to regain form alongside old ally Stirling

Ireland's main threat in the shortest format often comes from Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien at the top of the order. The veteran O'Brien is one of his country's finest ever players but he did not feature in the recent series against South Africa, having retired from ODIs. His final four knocks in the format were two, one, one and nought and the 37-year-old will hope to put that slump behind him.

Key Opta facts
- This will be the first bilateral men's T20I game between Ireland and South Africa. Ireland will be South Africa's 13th opposition in the format, while the Proteas will be their hosts' 24th.
- South Africa have dropped 29 chances since the beginning of 2020 in T20I cricket, the most of all Test playing nations during this time. Ireland have dropped the fewest (five), although they’ve also played the joint fewest such matches of any Test playing nation.
- Ireland have hit a boundary once every 3.7 balls in T20 powerplays since the beginning of 2020, the most frequent of any Test playing country in that time.
- De Kock has hit 31 sixes in T20Is since the start of 2020. Only Martin Guptill and Evin Lewis (both 34) have struck more.
- Balbirnie requires 55 more runs to become the fifth Irish batsman to score 1,000 runs in T20Is in just his 40th innings. He is set to surpass Stirling's Ireland best mark of reaching the landmark in 45 knocks.

Pakistan posted a record total before staving off a historic Liam Livingstone onslaught as they won a high-scoring opener in the T20I series against England.

Captain Babar Azam led the way with 85 while opening partner Mohammad Rizwan contributed 63 to help Pakistan – swept 3-0 in the recent one-dayers when facing makeshift opponents – reach an imposing 232-6 in Nottingham.

An innings that struggled for early momentum would finish with a flurry of boundaries, including 152 runs coming from the final 10 overs.

England, who had seen returning skipper Eoin Morgan win the toss and opt to bowl first, lost wickets early and often in the powerplay overs to hamper their reply.

Livingstone, however, kept his team in the race, hitting a maiden international century in stunning fashion. He reached the milestone from a mere 42 balls, making it the fastest ton for England in the shortest format.

Yet with his side's hopes resting firmly on his shoulders, the right-hander fell immediately after reaching three figures with a ninth six, caught in the deep for 103 off the bowling of Shadab Khan when trying to repeat the trick.

The innings finished up at 201, Shaheen Shah Afridi (3-30) taking the final wicket with four balls to spare as Pakistan triumphed by 31 runs.

Amid the carnage in just the third T20I England have played at Trent Bridge, Mohammad Hasnain returned impressive figures of 1-28 from four overs. Shadab was far more expensive, going for 52 runs during his allocation, but he did crucially claim three wickets.


Openers lay the platform

Babar and Rizwan put on 150 despite getting off to a sedate start. Indeed, Pakistan failed to register a six in the first half of their innings yet finished up hitting 12 maximums, England's bowlers unable to stem the sudden flow of runs.

Fakhar Zaman (26) and Mohammad Hafeez (24) hit three apiece during late cameos, while debutant Azam Khan smacked a four from his first ball in international cricket during the final over.

Livingstone makes expedition into record books

Coming in at number five with his team 48-3, Livingstone set about the Pakistan bowlers instantly in the face of a tall order. He reached his half-century from 17 balls – England's previous record for that landmark had been 21 deliveries – and just kept on going, despite receiving limited support.

Jason Roy had made 32 in a hurry at the top of the order, but this was a one-man show for a team welcoming back several regulars following a coronavirus outbreak that had stopped them being involved in the one-dayers.

England's second string have "done themselves a world of good" with their performances in the ODI series against Pakistan, says captain Eoin Morgan.

Ben Stokes returned early from an injury lay-off to captain a hastily assembled side in the three-match series after England's first-choice squad were forced to isolate due to a coronavirus outbreak.

However, with Morgan and Co watching on from the sidelines, England's back-up brigade impressed in a 3-0 series triumph – James Vince scoring his maiden ODI century as he led a record run chase at Edgbaston to secure the third victory.

England's star names have returned for the T20I series, which starts on Friday, though Saqib Mahmood, who was named player of the series, and Lewis Gregory have been rewarded for their performances.

"They've done themselves the world of good, to be honest," Morgan said when asked of the players who stepped up to fulfil the ODI series.

"The one thing you look at when guys come in and out is a marked improvement from the time they [first] get the opportunity to the time the next opportunity arrives. The two guys mentioned [Mahmood and Gregory] and Vince were outstanding.

"I think everybody within the group was extremely proud to watch them play like they did, simply because it's the biggest compliment you can pay to anybody who played in the World Cup group, and the way we've played in the last five years has had such an impact on the game.

"Guys recognise that opportunities are few and far between but, when they do come, the method that the team plays is starting to resonate with people around the country, which is great.

"Over the last six years, with the amount of cricket we play, you don't get to enjoy the cricket as much as you'd like. But sitting back and watching the guys [and] the way the guys played was hugely satisfying. They played an exciting brand of cricket, they really enjoyed themselves, and the result came with that. It was hugely beneficial."

 

England have triumphed in five of their past six T20I home outings, and finished 2020 with three successive wins, meaning a victory at Trent Bridge will match their longest winning run on home soil in the format.

However, Pakistan won the most recent meeting between the teams last September, a five-run victory in Manchester in a series which finished 1-1.

One player Morgan will be unable to call on is Stokes, who has been rested as he recovers from the finger injury which had been set to keep him out of white-ball action this month.

"He dug us out of a huge hole coming back early from his injury and I think leading the way he did is a huge compliment to the leader he is within our side, how mature he has been as a leader and now a captain," Morgan said of Stokes.

"We gave him every chance to be fit. He hasn't played a lot of cricket and he's had some 'R and R' at home and feels quite fresh.

"The finger hasn't come along as he and the medical team would have liked, so it's important it's as good as it can be for the Test matches against India."

England will be aiming to continue their fine T20I form on home soil when they take on Pakistan in a three-match series, starting on Friday in Nottingham.

Fresh off a 3-0 sweep in the ODI games against the same opponents, England switch to a format in which they have triumphed in five of their past six outings in their own back yard.

Indeed, they finished a 2020 season hampered by the coronavirus pandemic with three victories on the spin – another at Trent Bridge in the opener against Pakistan will match their longest winning run at home in 20-over action, having previously enjoyed a four-match streak from September 2014 to July 2016.

However, Pakistan won the most recent meeting between the teams in September of last year, a five-run victory in Manchester making sure that series finished level at 1-1.

The tourists will hope a change to T20 action can help them turn around their fortunes on this trip, considering they were outplayed by a makeshift England 50-over team that had been hastily put together due to COVID-19 protocols.

Eoin Morgan was among the regulars forced to isolate following positive coronavirus cases within the group that had been on duty for the ODI games against Sri Lanka, but the captain is back to lead a more familiar squad this time around.

Saqib Mahmood is included again after impressing in the one-day arena, while Lewis Gregory is also selected and there is a return from injury for Jos Buttler, too. Ben Stokes – captain of the 50-over side in Morgan's absence – is left out, however, having only just made his comeback following surgery on a broken finger.

Chris Silverwood will also be missing for the home team, with England's head coach taking a break from his duties. Paul Collingwood has been placed in temporary charge.

As for Pakistan, Imad Wasim has been recalled to a squad that also includes batsman Azam Khan, son of former national team captain and coach Moin Khan.

England are at home, but Trent Bridge has not been regularly used for T20 international fixtures in the past. The home side won by seven wickets against West Indies at the venue back in June 2012, having lost by the same margin when taking on South Africa there three years earlier.

 


In the (Mah)mood for more wickets

With England opting to leave out Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood – three likely selections for the upcoming Test series against India – Mahmood has an opportunity to stake his claim ahead of this year's Twenty20 World Cup.

The Lancashire pace bowler finished with nine wickets at an average of 13.66 in his three ODI outings against Pakistan, all while going at just 4.39 runs per over.

Brilliant Babar to lead the way?

Pakistan captain Babar Azam made up for two low scores with a sensational 158 in the third one-dayer, albeit his efforts came in a losing cause. His innings did at least strengthen his grip on top spot in the official ODI batting rankings.

He is just as prolific in T20I cricket, too. Since the beginning of 2019, the right-hander is the only player to reach 1,000 runs in the format (1,004), while no other has managed more scores of 50 or more across that period (11).

Key series facts

- Pakistan will be aiming for back-to-back wins in men’s T20Is against England for the first time, following a five-run victory in their most recent meeting (September 1, 2020).

- England are undefeated against Pakistan from their five multigame bilateral T20I series (W3, D2); their most recent such series in 2020 ended in a draw.

- Three of the four players with the best batting averages in T20I cricket (25+ innings) could appear in this series: Dawid Malan (47.4), Babar Azam (47.3) and Mohammad Rizwan (44.4). Only Virat Kohli (52.7) has a better average in the format than the trio.

- England have the second-best batting strike rate (148.9 runs per 100 deliveries) of any Test-playing country in T20I action since the beginning of 2019 (New Zealand – 151.5).

- Fakhar Zaman (948) is 52 away from scoring 1,000 T20 runs at international level; he would be the seventh man to achieve the feat for Pakistan, and the fourth fastest to do so (45th innings) if he achieves the milestone in the first match (Babar Azam – 26 innings, Mohammad Hafeez – 41 and Ahmed Shehzad – 42).

- Pakistan pace bowler Haris Rauf has taken 25 wickets in T20I action since the beginning of 2020; only two players have taken more in that time (Tabraiz Shamsi – 26 for South Africa and Ish Sodhi – 26 for New Zealand).

West Indies made it 2-2 in the five-match Twenty20 series against South Africa on Thursday, captain Kieron Pollard top-scoring with 51 and Dwayne Bravo taking four wickets. 

The Windies posted 167-6 and successfully defended the total to ensure everything is still left to play for in Saturday's final match in the T20 series. 

South Africa, who last won a T20 series in March 2019 against Sri Lanka, have not successfully chased a target above 160 since February 2018 when they beat India.

West Indies enjoyed a superb opening over, plundering 20 from the bowling of Aiden Markram – their most in the first over of a T20 and the most by any team batting first in this format.

South Africa responded well to that early setback, however, taking six wickets in the next 15 overs, with George Linde in particularly impressive form, the 29-year-old putting in the most economical performance of his T20 career, conceding just 16 runs in four overs.

The Proteas undermined their efforts in the closing stages as they conceded 66 runs in the final four overs. 

Pollard and Fabian Allen scored six sixes in that period, while the former hit three in three balls off Kagiso Rabada, who bowled his most expensive T20 over.

The impressive Pollard brought up a sixth T20 half-century and his highest score in seven innings as Lungi Ngidi's (0-48) two death overs cost 30 runs. 

Allen suffered what looked like a dislocated shoulder as he tried to cut off a Temba Bavuma sweep as South Africa attempted to start their chase strongly, with his overs made up for by Pollard and Andre Russell. 

Quinton de Kock did his best to drive his team forward, the former captain scoring a second successive half-century (60) and a sixth T20 fifty in his last 15 matches, but no other South Africa batter scored more than 20.

Bravo rolls back the years

Bravo made light of Allen's absence with a superb display. He took the wickets of Linde, de Kock, Tabraiz Shamsi and Ngidi in 12 balls in the closing stages of the match to eventually finish with career-best figures of 4-19.

Rabada sums up Proteas' woes

South Africa's chances of victory collapsed during a dismal final four overs, with Kagiso Rabada particularly generous. His penultimate over of the innings proved to be the most expensive at 25 runs, while he did not complete a full quota of four overs for the first time in a T20 match since his debut in 2014. 

South Africa moved 2-1 ahead in the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies on Tuesday, Kagiso Rabada holding his nerve to clinch a one-run win in Grenada.

Quinton de Kock marked his 50th international appearance in the format by smashing 72 from 51 deliveries, helping the Proteas to post 167-8 - their highest total so far.

Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen contributed 23 and 32 respectively, yet South Africa lost a clatter of wickets in the closing stages.

Obed McCoy claimed two in the penultimate over as he finished with career-best figures of 4-22. There was also a run out to follow in the next, the last of five wickets to go down for the addition of just 20 runs across the final 18 deliveries.

Evin Lewis (27) and new opening partner Lendl Simmons (22) added 51 for the first wicket in West Indies' reply, yet for the second outing in a row they faltered in the face of high-class spin.

Having claimed 1-16 last time out, Tabraiz Shamsi seemingly turned the match in his team's favour by taking 2-13, Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer (17) the batsmen to depart to the left-arm slow bowler.

Andre Russell blasted 25 in a hurry but his departure at the end of an expensive Anrich Nortje over shifted a see-saw contest back in favour of South Africa. Left needing 15 off the last, West Indies came up just short despite a final-ball six from Fabian Allen.


Proteas set the pace thanks to De Kock

De Kock celebrated reaching a personal milestone with a brutal display of hitting, his 51-ball knock at the top of the order including five fours and two sixes. The wicketkeeper-batsman is in impressive form, having now scored 266 runs in his past five T20 innings away from home.

Call of duty needs a reboot

The West Indies have batted second in each of their past 10 T20I meetings with South Africa, winning the toss in all but one of those games. However, the strategic decision may need a rethink before the sides face each other again, as they have gone on to win on just four of those occasions.

South Africa levelled the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies at 1-1 as spin played a key role in clinching a 16-run win in Grenada on Sunday.

The Proteas appeared to have failed to capitalise on a strong start with the bat when posting 166-7, only slightly above the total they had been unable to defend in the opening game 24 hours earlier.

West Indies had cruised to an eight-wicket victory on Saturday, but this time around they were bamboozled by South Africa's slow bowlers, George Linde (2-19) and Tabraiz Shamsi (1-16) taking 3-35 from their eight overs combined.

Fabian Allen's late onslaught – the all-rounder smashed 34 off just 12 deliveries – kept his team in with a slender chance, but even three sixes off Lungi Ngidi (1-49) in the 20th over were not enough. The innings finished at 150-9, in the process ending West Indies' two-match winning run in the format.

 

South Africa had appeared on course to set a more challenging target when openers Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock (26) put on 73, the stand coming to an end when the latter fell to Kevin Sinclair (2-23).

Captain Temba Bavuma (46) continued the good work of the first-wicket pairing as the tourists reached the midway stage on 95-1, yet they lost their way in the second half of the innings.

The miserly Sinclair accounted for Hendricks, who made 42, and the promise of a late push was curtailed by regular wickets, the Proteas slipping from 122-3 as Obed McCoy (3-25) excelled with the ball at the death.

The real McCoy? Absolutely!

Left-arm seamer McCoy returned his best T20 figures in international cricket, aided by going for just three runs in the 20th over. His back-of-the-hand slower ball accounted for both Heinrich Klaasen and Linde as South Africa slumped down the stretch, albeit the stuttering finish did not cost them in the end.

Allen just Fab, but still not enough

Andre Fletcher did make 35, but the opener used up 36 deliveries in the process of top scoring for West Indies. In contrast, Allen rushed along at a stunning strike-rate of 283.33 runs per 100 balls. His late cameo included five sixes but Ngidi got him in the end, trapped lbw by a yorker from the penultimate ball.

West Indies T20 captain, Kieron Pollard, insists he will not be overly perturbed by the din surrounding the selection of some senior players for the team, as a debate would have surrounded the squad regardless.

The selection of veteran players Chris Gayle, Fidel Edwards, and Dwayne Bravo has ruffled the feathers of some fans who insist the team should be more focused on developing younger players. 

With the T20 World Cup coming up, however, the position of the panel of selectors, and articulated by Pollard himself, has been to leave the door open for any player that can meaningfully contribute to the team winning a third title.

Gayle (41), Edwards (39), and Bravo (37) have been called up to the team ahead of a series of T20 contests, ahead of the global tournament, which began with a series against Sri Lanka back in February.

“When you look at if from a logical perspective if you go with youngsters there will still be noise.  No matter what you do there will be noise,” Pollard told members of the media, in addressing the issue.

“So, I think it’s what’s best for us, what’s best for us, and what we think is best for us going into a tournament like that.  If those guys can be assets for us, then why not get the opportunity to use the little bit of experience or a little bit of cricket that they may have left in them," he added.

“It’s a situation that we are looking to pick the best team.  So, these guys they play around the world, and we get the opportunity to see them play around the world and we wonder why they are not playing for us but then when we select them, we ask the questions, why are we selecting them?  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”   

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.

England maintained their 100 per cent record in Twenty20 games played at Sophia Gardens thanks to a resounding eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their series opener.

Jos Buttler made 68 not out as England made it seven wins from seven at the venue in Cardiff, this latest triumph sealed with 17 balls to spare as they easily overhauled Sri Lanka's below-par 129-7.

Jason Roy gave the chase a fast start with 36 from 22 deliveries in an 80-run opening stand with Buttler, who hit eight fours and a six during his 55-ball knock.

Wanindu Hasaranga did excel with the ball for the tourists, giving up just 12 runs in his four-over spell, while Isuru Udana bowled Dawid Malan for seven off 14 balls. Jonny Bairstow finished up unbeaten on 13.

Sri Lanka had earlier been indebted to a half-century from Dasun Shanaka, his second at international level in the format, having opted to bat first after winning the toss.

Danushka Gunathilaka made 19 at the top of the order and captain Kusal Perera contributed 30, but the tourists struggled for momentum as they slipped to 79-5 at the start of the 14th over.

Adil Rashid claimed 2-17 in four economical overs, while there was a wicket for Liam Livingstone too. Shanaka made sure Sri Lanka at least finished strongly, hitting three fours and a pair of sixes as 25 came from the final two overs, but their total was no problem for England's powerful batting line-up.


Opening role just perfect for Buttler

Buttler has made clear his desire to continue opening in T20 action for England - and the numbers support his case. This was his ninth half-century in 20 innings at the top of the order, with the milestone arriving from 38 balls with a pulled four to the square leg boundary.

Tourists toil again in format

Sri Lanka have lost 10 of their previous 11 completed T20 matches, a worrying run of form with a World Cup to come later in the year. They do not have to wait long for an opportunity to draw level in this series at least, as the teams meet again at the same venue on Thursday.

England will be looking to extend their winning streak against struggling Sri Lanka when the Twenty20 series begins on Wednesday in Cardiff.

The three matches between the nations provide an opportunity to continue building towards this year's T20 World Cup, though the hosts are without two key players due to injuries.

Fast bowler Jofra Archer is sidelined after surgery on his right elbow, while Ben Stokes is not yet ready to return to England duty following a broken finger. However, the all-rounder is playing again for Durham, suggesting an international comeback is not too far away.

Reece Topley is another to be ruled out of action, with England opting for David Willey as an alternative left-arm bowling option. Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan have been injury doubts ahead of the opening fixture, though captain Eoin Morgan said on Tuesday he expects both to be available.

England's limited-overs skipper was also asked again about the possibility of a return for Alex Hales, with the batsman having not played for England since being withdrawn from the 50-over squad just prior to the 2019 World Cup.

"There are conversations to be had between Alex, myself and the coach and potentially a few of the players," Morgan told the media. "Trying to get those happening in Covid times has been an issue. They will happen at some stage."

England have won three on the spin against Sri Lanka, who have been beaten in nine of their last 10 completed outings in T20 cricket. Their solitary win during the miserable run came against West Indies in March.

In that same month, England lost a hard-fought series in India, going down 3-2 to Virat Kohli's side. Bairstow is one of a number of players back in the fold after heading home from the Indian Premier League earlier than originally scheduled once the tournament was halted due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hosts have an unblemished record at Sophia Gardens in T20 action too, winning all six games played there. This will be the first time they have hosted Sri Lanka at the venue.


Jonny be good! 

After isolating upon his return from India, Bairstow has been in outstanding form in the domestic T20 competition, the Vitality Blast.

The right-handed batsman has made 295 runs in four outings for Yorkshire, including hitting 112 against Worcestershire when needing a runner for half of his innings due to an injured ankle. Still, there is little need to move when you can hit boundaries – he has managed 26 fours and 18 sixes while scoring at a strike-rate of 175.59 runs per 100 deliveries while in action for his county in that competition.

Opportunity knocks

Chris Woakes is back for England, having not featured in a T20 at international level since November 2015. Like Willey, he will hope to make the most of any opportunity that comes his way in the series, which sees two games staged in the Welsh capital before concluding at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

Sri Lanka, too, have some fresh faces: Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya Lakshan and Ishan Jayaratne have been included in a 24-man squad for both this series and the three one-dayers that follow. The tourists are without former captain Angelo Mathews, however.

Key series facts

- England lost their most recent men's T20I on home soil, against Australia in September 2020; however, the last time they lost two consecutive such matches at home was in August 2013.

- Since the beginning of 2020, Sri Lanka have the second lowest bowling dot-ball percentage (38.3 per cent) of any Test-playing country in the powerplay overs in men’s T20Is (Afghanistan 37.7 per cent).

- Sri Lanka have scored just 53.6 per cent of their runs from boundaries in powerplay overs in T20 games since the beginning of 2020, the lowest rate of any Test-playing country in that time.

- Morgan (201) needs just 13 runs to become the highest run-scorer in men's T20 clashes between England and Sri Lanka (Mahela Jayawardene – 213).

- Chris Jordan (12) needs just two wickets to become the highest wicket-taker in men's T20 games involving England and Sri Lanka (Lasith Malinga – 13).

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