Wellington: Sri Lanka cruised to a convincing 9-wicket win against England in its World Cup Pool A match on Sunday, powered by unbeaten centuries from Kumar Sangakkara, who smashed 117 off 86 balls, and opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who scored 139.
Sri Lanka reached 312 for the loss of just one wicket and with two overs to spare in Wellington. England's total of 309, which included a century by Joe Root, was barely a par score on a pitch that favors batsmen and has relatively short boundaries.
Sri Lanka looked in complete control when batting. The opening pair put on exactly 100 runs before Tillakaratne Dilshan (44) was caught from a leading edge from the bowling of Moeen Ali. But that only brought Sangakkara to the crease, who dominated England's pace bowling attack.
The slower bowlers from both sides proved more effective, and England may wonder if it made the right decision by leaving out spinner James Tredwell. Thirimanna said batting was made easier by facing four bowlers with a similar pace.
"Yeah, because on this wicket, it was really flat," he said. "I think, nothing for the fast bowlers. Just no seam, no swing, so it helped a lot."
He said he rated it one of the best innings he'd played, and felt fortunate to have Sangakkara at the other end.
"At the current moment I think he's number one," Thirimanna said. "I mean, he is batting really well. Not only is he rotating the strike, but hitting the boundaries as well."
While England's total might have seemed imposing in previous World Cup campaigns, it was always going to be hard for it to defend if Sri Lanka's stylish batsmen got a chance to hit out.
But England captain Eoin Morgan, who scored 27, said he didn't think England's score was below par.
"We were happy going into the halfway stage, absolutely," he said. "Root had put in a great performance, showed us his class again, which is great. But when we bowl one bad ball every couple of overs, or every over, you're going to be punished."
He said the dropped catches were also disappointing.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, England got off to a quick start thanks to a high tempo innings by Ian Bell (49).
But its innings stalled when Sri Lanka brought on its slow bowlers and Moeen Ali (15) and Gary Ballance (6) fell. Perhaps hoping to avoid another batting collapse like the 123 it scored in its last game in Wellington against New Zealand, England was cautious, content to score at under three-runs an over as the innings crept along at a snail's pace.
That left a lot of work to do, and Root and Buttler (39 off 19 balls) led the recovery for England, scoring nearly half its runs in the last 15 overs. After being dropped on two, Root scored 121 off 108 balls, finishing much faster than he began.
But it wasn't enough against a Sri Lankan team whose batsmen are starting to find some excellent form and raced to 55 without loss after the first 10 overs.
Thirimanne was dropped by Root at first slip when he was on seven. He would score another 115 runs before he was dropped again by James Taylor in the 46th over, bookending England's miserable afternoon in the field.
The win puts Sri Lanka in a good position to progress through to the quarterfinals.
England, on the other hand, will now likely face a do-or-die match against Bangladesh to secure the fourth spot in the pool. Morgan said the team is not contemplating the thought of bowing out before the next round.
"It's not even a thought at the moment," he said. "Two games to win to get us into a quarterfinal."