England vs Sri Lanka first ODI: Last-ball six salvages tie for England
Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes celebrate after the latter’s six secured a tie (Getty) Getty
Liam Plunkett hit the final ball of a thrilling match for six to snatch a tie for England against Sri Lanka, on the back of Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler’s defiant heroics at Trent Bridge.
The hosts faltered to 30 for four and then 82 for six in reply to 286 for nine in the first match of the series.
But in the key absence of Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews, off the field with a sore hamstring, seventh-wicket pair Buttler (93) and Woakes (95no) put England back in the mix with a brilliant stand of 138.
Then, just when it seemed Sri Lanka would surely prevail after all, number 10 Plunkett smashed Nuwan Pradeep high over long-off for six to leave the scores level.
Woakes and Buttler were two of only three batsmen in the top nine to even reach double-figures as England faltered to the all-round skills of Mathews – who followed his hard-working 73 with two early wickets.
Sri Lanka’s total, on a good pitch after Eoin Morgan won the toss, owed most to Mathews but also plenty to a hugely contrasting half-century from Seekkuge Prasanna (59).
When Mathews then induced a false start in reply, England soon seemed washed up. Jason Roy could not locate Mathews’ wicket-to-wicket line and was lbw when the ball hit his back pad.
Then came a collector’s item moment of bizarre misjudgment from Alex Hales. He chiselled a simple catch to midwicket off Suranga Lakmal, before being talked into chancing England’s only review by non-striker Joe Root on the apparent basis that his bat might have been tucked behind his pad. It was not.
Root had uncharacteristically dropped an outfield catch in the penultimate over of Sri Lanka’s innings. That was not costly – but confirmation that things are not going his way came when he went back to Mathews and was bowled.
Jonny Bairstow, in his first ODI since last September, could not take advantage of a let-off on nought – an easy chance to midwicket going begging off Mathews, before he went for three anyway when he guided another catch to point. Morgan hinted at a riposte but departed, short of a half-century for a 19th successive international innings, edging a waft at Pradeep.
Instead, after Moeen Ali chopped on to Pradeep, Buttler and Woakes shook things up. Buttler gave a half-chance on 10, a drive for four through the fingertips of a diving Farveez Maharoof at mid-off, and then a second on 90 when Prasanna could not hold on at cover.
By then, England were within sight of a famous chase. But Buttler was brilliantly caught on the long-on boundary by Dasun Shanaka off Prasanna, with 67 still needed.
Woakes’ maiden 50 in this format was also his first in any List A match, yet in the end it was Plunkett who grabbed a share of the glory and the spoils in an unbroken half-century partnership as England finished on 286 for eight after hitting 29 off the last two overs.
Mathews had earlier dug in with the bat to provide Sri Lanka’s longevity – while Prasanna was by far the most effective of several who blazed away. It was seat-of-the-pants stuff at times, but paid off for the tourists.
Mathews hit just five fours from 109 deliveries, the watchful role required to ensure Prasanna’s remarkable 24-ball 50 – the second of his 28-match ODI career, coming only three days after his first against Ireland – did not go to waste.
Sri Lanka made a blistering start, checked when David Willey accounted for both left-handed openers. He had Danushka Gunathilaka poking a simple catch to cover and Kusal Perera skewing a much tougher one to backward point.
When Kusal Mendis gloved an attempted hook behind off Woakes, two wickets had fallen for six runs. Morgan introduced Adil Rashid early, and the leg-spinner met the challenge with an economical spell. The brakes applied brought another wicket, Moeen the beneficiary when Dinesh Chandimal mistimed a sweep into the deep to end a stand of 64 with Mathews.
Prasanna made only a conservative 14 from his first 12 deliveries, before suddenly piling into Plunkett. The first two of his four sixes in five balls came off the Yorkshire seamer, and Prasanna’s leg-side heaving continued against Moeen as he surged past his 50 with six fours too.
Sri Lanka’s innings was briefly transformed. But Morgan’s decision to recall Woakes worked immediately, Prasanna splicing an attempted back-foot thrash straight back to the bowler. Mathews had contributed just nine of 68 for the fifth wicket with Prasanna, and continued to play the long game.
He was eventually eighth out, chipping Plunkett’s last ball to long-off, but had done enough to keep his team highly competitive in a match which ended in the eighth tie in England’s ODI history