The likelihood of the first ODI between England and Sri Lanka had felt quite slim with Flaming June looking more like Flooded June.  I had to make my way to Nottingham from Manchester and did so across some of the most beautiful countryside I think we have in England.  The A616 otherwise known as Woodhead Pass made a very nice change from motorways.  That did of course lead eventually to the M1 where I was held up due to an accident, I was still at the Park and Ride in good time to get to the ground however.

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When ‘on the road’ rather than coming from home it’s always a bit of a quandary on what to do for food.  I chose the chicken strips and chips option, healthy went out of the window  and found a kerb to sit on, my Essex cushion coming in extra handy as did the wall behind me when it came to getting up.  It was interesting that the young man who came to offer the chance to win tickets in return for contact details decided to completely ignore me and only take from the 4 men I’d been chatting to.  I would’ve thought the very fact I was at the match would have told him I’d have liked the chance.  As an aside my ‘tea’ was a Mars Bar – that’s what you call bad planning!

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I’d picked the Middle Tier of the Radcliffe Stand – and wow that was a great choice! The view is amazing!  I was in the 2nd row from the front and had a wonderful view that only lacked Long On and Long Off.  I also had great company for the day, to my left on particular, Timmy Everett and friends, it turned out he and I had frequented the same Leicester Tigers page on Facebook, we had great chat all the way through the match.

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England had won the toss and put Sri Lanka in to bat, I was disappointed with that and thought I’d be going home early.  How wrong I was! Sri Lanka hadn’t fared well in the Test Matches, but the ODI was literally a different ball game.

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England emerged to Jerusalem and were followed by openers Kushal Janith Perera and Dhanushka Gunathilleke.  England’s blowing line up consisted of 4 front line bowlers Chris Woakes, David Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid with true all rounder Moeen Ali added in.  Captain Eoin Morgan had the option of Joe Root if the need arose.

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There were 2 wicket keepers in the field, with Jos Buttler taking the gloves and Jonny Bairstow as a more than competent fielder.  It was his catch from the bowling of Willey that dismissed Gunathilleke when he was on 9 and Sri Lanka on 27.

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Perera looked comfortable at the wicket and he and Kusal Mendis added  23 runs before a great catch from Jason Roy, another decent fielder saw Willey take his 2nd wicket, Perera for 24 runs. Sri Lanka were on 50 for 2.

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The experienced Dinesh Chandimal joined Mendis who was dismissed in the next over, this time a Chris Woakes ball found the edge of the bat to be caught by Jos Buttler.  Sri Lanka were on 56 for 3 and that early finish seemed likely.

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Captain Angelo Mathews was next in and he and Chandimal reminded us that the Sri Lankans know how to bat.  He played a captains innings, with Chandimal staying with him, he made 37 before being tempted by a Moeen Ali ball, Chris Woakes taking the catch. Sri Lanka had moved on to 120 for 4.

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Seekkuge Prasanna joined his captain and also joined in hitting runs, he made 59 from 28 balls, damaging some bowling averages, he hit 8 Fours and a mighty 4 Sixes, for probably the first time in this English summer this Sri Lankan batting was a joy to watch.

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England didn’t seem to have an answer, but a change of bowler saw Chris Woakes take a catch from his own bowling with the first ball of the over.  Prasanna had greatly helped the Sri Lankan cause, they’d moved to 188 for 5.

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Mathews was going well but needed batting partners to stay with him, Upul Tharanga was despatched quickly being caught by Buttler from the bowling of Liam Plunkett.  Young middle order batsman/bowler Dasun Shanaka was next in and next out too.  A Run Out, courtesy of Plunkett, he’d made a useful 20.

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Coming in at 9 Farveez Maharoof showed he was handy with the bat as well at the ball, he and Mathews put on 41 runs before Mathews was caught by Woakes from the bowling of Plunkett, his 73 being the top score of the innings.

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Maharoof made 31 in total including a Four and a Six, he and fellow bowler saw their team through to the final ball when Lakmal was run out.  Sri Lanka had scored 286 in their 50 Overs.  With a wicket that didn’t seem to have a huge amount of life in it that felt like a highly ‘do’able’ total for England to chase.

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A break in the cricket and a comment on the crowd, it never ceases to amaze me just how much food some bring to a day at the cricket.  For some it seems to be a 7 or 8 hour picnic, there was a group of old friends sitting in the front row and the eating was verging on impressive, there was so much food.  As the day went on it was clear that there’d been a fair amount of beer drunk too as the good old beer snakes arrived.  I confess I’m not a lover, if I’m under one, they are dripping in beer, but they are quite good fun from afar.  However there seemed to be aggro in one of the stands and several men were led away.

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And so to the England innings, would this be a quick run chase leading to that early night? Or in my case, early 2.5 hour drive home.  Well, the answer to that is basically no, as 5 of our top 7 batsmen were out for a mighty 19 between them.  Yes, that would be 19 runs between 5 top class batsmen facing the Sri Lankan bowlers on a fairly friendly wicket.

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With England on 82 for 6 it did seem that early finish would happen, for wholly different reasons. A quick countdown of the wickets that fell.

  1. Jason Roy                 LBW                           Mathews   3
  2. Alex Hales            Ct Perera                     Lakmal      4
  3. Joe Root                      B                               Mathews   2
  4. Jonny Bairstow   Ct Gunathilleke         Lakmal      3
  5. Eoin Morgan        Ct Chandimal            Pradeep   43
  6. Mooen Ali                   B                              Pradeep     7

Eoin Morgan had contributed over half of the runs, batting with the style England fans know he can produce, he hit 7 Fours and was clearly furious with himself after putting his bat out to see the ball catch the edge before landing in the Keepers’ gloves.

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The worrying thing for that top order was that it really wasn’t sparkling bowling that saw them walking promptly back to the Pavilion, it was largely poor batting.  Hopefully that will improve for all 5 before their next appearances.

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Jos Buttler had come in at 6, his season with Lancashire hadn’t been too much to write home about, but this innings most certainly was.  Chris Woakes show can be very handy with the bat had joined him with those 6 wickets down.

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The pair played a sensible innings, Buttler scored 93, which included 6 Fours and 1 Six, that was some patient batting for a man who seems to be comfortable with the white ball but who hasn’t always showed patience.  He was both upset and angry to be caught out by Dasun Shanaka just 7 runs short of his century, but he and Woakes had moved the total on to 220 for 7!

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With 8.3 overs remaining could England make the 67 runs needed for a win that had seemed wholly improbable after the disastrous start to the innings?  David Willey through his bat at a few balls before being caught out by Kusal Mendis form the bowling of Maharoof, he’d made only 7 runs.

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That brought Liam Plunkett to the wicket; the Sri Lankan bowlers did a great job of restricting the England batsmen and 10 runs were needed from the final 2 balls.  Buttler and Plunkett ran 3 at some pace on the penultimate ball.  Could England draw?  With Liam Plunkett in the end of a ball a Six is always a possibility!  And, amazingly that’s exactly what happened, a loose ball was hit virtually into the pavilion and the game was tied.

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What a fantastic result, the leap out of my seat moment is up there with some of my best sporting experiences!  I’d say I should have checked the history between these 2 teams before I went in with my preconceptions, England had only won twice in the last ten meetings in ODI’s.  The next 4 will be very interesting – weather allowing.

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