Sri Lanka eased to a 90-run victory over England in the sixth ODI today (Saturday), as they took an unassailable 4-2 lead in the seven-match series.
England had begun the game in Pallakele hoping to repeat their victory on the same ground, just 48 hours earlier, and in doing so level the series.
England kept faith with the same victorious XI from the rain affected fifth ODI whilst Sri Lanka brought in Dinesh Chandimal to replace Kusal Perera in the batting line-up, with bowlers Seekkuge Prasanna and Suranga Lakmal replacing Ajantha Mendis and Dhammika Prasad.
Having won the toss and opting to bat first Sri Lanka built an imposing total as they looked to seal the Hero Cup series.
However, it was England who began the match the better of the two sides as they restricted Sri Lanka to 27-1 from the first 10 overs. Chris Woakes captured the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene for just five, and bowled very disciplined lines alongside fellow opening bowler Steven Finn.
It was the imposing duo of veterans Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara that gave Sri Lanka the lift and impetus that they needed. The pair added 153 for the second wicket to give the hosts the perfect platform for their innings.
Once Dilshan departed for a well constructed 68 Sangakkara, with help from Prasanna (20) and Chandimal (35), continued his march towards another ODI century.
The left-hander was eventually dismissed for a run a ball 112, his 20th ODI century, his third against England and the first on his home ground. By this stage Sri Lanka were starting to pile on the agony for England as the visitors became ragged in the final ten overs, conceding 92 runs in all, as Sri Lanka posted a very competitive score of 292-7 after their 50 overs.
England's opening duo of Finn (2-53) and Woakes (2-52) bowled well, especially early on, but special mention must be reserved for James Tredwell who once again impressed with figures of 1-37 from his ten overs.
In reply England knew the run chase would be tough but they could take heart from their victory in the fifth ODI when they chased quite comfortably and showed some encouraging signs.
However, England and Alastair Cook began disastrously as the under-fire captain was dismissed Lbw in the first over to spinner Senanayake for just one run as Sri Lanka opted to open the bowling with their spinners.
Worse was to follow as Senanayake dismissed the in-form James Taylor (10) with the score on 36 and Dilshan captured the prize wicket of Moeen Ali (34), who was showing once again why he could be feared by opponents at next year's World Cup, to leave the score on 50-3.
England suffered a double blow with the score on 84 as both Ravi Bopara (13) and Eoin Morgan (0) departed to successive balls leaving the visitors facing an uphill task. England never really recovered from this despite Joe Root (55) continuing his good form and Jos Buttler (22) and Chris Woakes (41) supporting him.
England needed an innings of note similar to that of Sangakkara's but were unable to muster one as they were eventually bowled out for 202 in the 42nd over. The impressive Senanayake (3-33) and the returning Suranga Lakmal (4-30) were the chief wicket-takers for the home side.
There are still question marks hanging over this England side, not least the role of captain Cook, but time is now running out to rectify these issues.
The sides now move on to Colombo for the final match of the series which begins on Tuesday, the last game before the final World Cup squads are announced.
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