Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga ripped four wickets through the England batting line-up as the former champions handed over a 20-run defeat to the favorites in a low-scoring World Cup match. The outcome implies that New Zealand may need more than a victory against the West Indies to secure their semi-final spot on Sunday.
Chasing 233 for victory, England fought against the variations of veteran Malinga before falling to their second defeat in this tournament, squandering a chance to join holders Australia at the top of the standings.
After Australia’s Glenn McGrath (71), his compatriot Muttiah Muralitharan (68), and Pakistan’s Wasim Akram (55), Malinga, who finished 4/43, became only the third bowler to reach 50 or more wickets in the competition.
After a slow start, England was in control as Joe Root made a half-century, but he was caught for 57 by Malinga to trigger a collapse and the hosts fell short despite the unbeaten 82 of Ben Stokes ensuring a tense finish.
Malinga sent back opener James Vince in the seventh over after having Jonny Bairstow trapped in front for a duck in the second ball of the England innings. He then had the dangerous Root caught behind, even though the batsman was guilty of chasing a ball down the leg side, and a review confirmed a faint edge. Malinga claimed his 51st World Cup wicket when Kusal Mendis dropped Stokes on 57 in his final over.
Earlier, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood’s pace duo claimed three wickets each to limit Sri Lanka from their 50 overs to a small total of 232/9, with Angelo Mathews top scoring with an unbeaten 85 out of 115 balls. Archer’s 3/52 made him the tournament’s biggest joint wicket-taker alongside Mitchell Starc with 15.
Sri Lanka started badly, losing openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Perera within three overs after winning the toss and choosing to bat first, but Avishka Fernando steadied the boat before getting knocked out, one run less of his second ODI half-century. Angelo Mathews with Kusal (46) gave a 71-run partnership to set the stage for a competitive total.
Spinner Adil Rashid took two wickets to turn the screws on Sri Lanka in two deliveries in the 30th over, before Archer and Wood (3/40) wreaked havoc towards the end.
The victory raises Sri Lanka with six points to number fifth in the tournament rankings. They can finish ahead of the Blackcaps if they win, who may need two wins from their remaining four matches to ensure passage to the knockout stages.
England will next face Australia on Tuesday at Lord’s, while Sri Lanka will meet South Africa on 28 June.