Kumar Sangakkara’s first century at Lord’s laid the platform for Sri Lanka’s nailbiting seven-run series-levelling win against England in the fourth one-day international on Saturday.
Just days after they’d been shot out for 67 during a 10-wicket defeat at Old Trafford, Sri Lanka made 300 for nine after being sent into bat.
Sangakkara’s 112 — his first hundred at Lord’s in any format — was the centrepiece and together with Tillakaratne Dilshan (71), he put on 172 for the second wicket after they’d managed just 15 runs between them in Manchester.
England needed what would have been their joint second-highest total to win a one-day international.
But their pursuit of a victory target of 301 was rocked immediately when Lasith Malinga reduced England to 10 for two by removing captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell.
But Jos Buttler, who came in at 111 for five, brought the hosts back into the match with a brilliant maiden ODI hundred off just 61 balls, the quickest ever scored by an England batsman.
Buttler also broke the equivalent Lord’s ground record of 82 balls for an ODI hundred set by West Indies great Clive Lloyd during the 1975 World Cup final.
Together with Ravi Bopara (51), the man-of-the-match shared a sixth-wicket stand of 133 that left England eyeing a remarkable win.
England got the target down to 20 off two overs and then 12 off the last one, bowled by Malinga.
Buttler took a first-ball single but Chris Jordan then drove Malinga straight to Dilshan at long on.
Buttler then took two only to be run out for 121 off the fourth ball when he dug out a yorker straight back to Malinga.
In all he faced just 74 balls, with 11 fours and four sixes.
A target of nine off two balls was beyond new batsman James Tredwell and Malinga, who took three for 52, had again proved himself a superb ‘death’ bowler to leave the series all square at 2-2 ahead of Tuesday’s finale at Edgbaston.
“That was one hell of a game,” said Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews at the presentation ceremony.
“It was one of the best innings I’ve seen; Jos batted brilliantly.
“But we saved the best ’til last and it’s pretty hard to get 10 runs of Lasith Malinga.
“Sangakkara and Dilshan batted extremely well; they set the platform.”
For Buttler, whose century was his first in 32 ODIs, it was a case of mixed emotions on a day when the wicketkeeper/batsman of both teams made hundreds.
“That’s the best I’ve ever played. It’s brilliant to play that well but it’s disappointing not to get over the line,” said the 23-year-old, who broke the England record for an ODI hundred of 69 balls set by the exiled Kevin Pietersen against South Africa at East London in 2005.
England captain Alastair Cook admitted his side’s top-order batting had left Buttler with too much to do.
“It was looking pretty bleak before Buttler and Bopara got going..We know we have to play the first 30 overs better.”
Earlier, Sangakkara’s 19th ODI century saw the 36-year-old take 13 balls to get off the mark.
But such was the composure and experience of the left-hander, playing his 373rd match at this level, he never looked flustered.
Sangakkara found his touch in the 18th over with three boundaries in successive balls from Joe Root.
Dilshan fell when he was bowled by James Anderson after attempting one trademark ‘Dilscoop’ shot too many.
Sangakkara’s two off Jordan saw him to a 95-ball hundred with 13 fours.
However, Sangakkara was dismissed when off-spinner Tredwell had him stumped by Buttler.
Malinga struck with his first ball when he had Cook lbw on review with an inswinger before fellow opener Bell edged the ‘slingshot’ seamer to Mahela Jayawardene at slip.
– Undaunted Buttler –
Gary Ballance (42) and Root (43) staunched the flow of wickets but the Yorkshire duo’s stand of 84 contained just three fours as England went 21 overs without a boundary.
Sangakkara took an excellent catch off spinner Ajantha Mendis after Ballance played a reverse sweep.
And when he stumped Eoin Morgan, England were 111 for five.
But an undaunted Buttler hit cleanly and went to fifty by driving seamer Nuwan Kulasekara for six before later twice driving him over the extra cover boundary off successive balls.