It was a classic case of David vs. Goliath as these teams squared off at Headingley, Leeds. Banking on experience, the Lankan senior players shouldered the responsibility to stun everyone en route an unexpected and memorable victory.
Coming off an impressive win against Afghanistan, England were on the lookout to leapfrog their bitter rivals Australia to the top of the table. But fate had something else planned as Sri Lanka ran away as winners by a slender margin of 20 runs.
Sri Lanka opted to bat first after winning the toss and had a sluggish start before newbie Avishka Fernando played an optimistic inning. The middle order which was under fire for their poor outings in this World Cup, turned up when mattered.
Kusal Mendis played a handy knock of 46 while the experienced Angelo Mathews, despite initial struggles scored a brilliant 85 to steer the Lankan Lions to 232-9 after their 50 overs.
The chase began on a bitter note for the hosts as Jonny Bairstow fell for his second golden duck this tournament. James Vince followed suit soon after before a terrific return catch by Isuru Udana sent the skipper backing.
England’s lengthy batting came into test under these circumstances. Root notched up his fifty to prolong his impressive tournament while others faltered around him. Malinga, after skittling out the top order, returned to remove the dangerous Jos Buttler to take his match tally to four wickets.
Ben Stokes was stranded with the tail. With wickets remaining not optimum and the asking run rate increasing, Stokes took initiative and soon reached his second fifty of the World Cup.
The crowning moment finally arrived when Mark Wood was dismissed in the last delivery of the 47th over to leave Stokes and the rest of the team distraught.