Chris Woakes set up a comfortable five-wicket win finished by Joe Root as England again proved too strong for Sri Lanka in the opening one-day international at the Riverside on Tuesday to go 1-0 up in a three-match series.
Woakes, in only his third international in over nine months, finished with excellent figures of 4-18 from his full 10 overs as 50-over world champions England dismissed Sri Lanka for a meagre 185 at Durham’s headquarters.
Root, in his 150th match at this level, then made 79 not out as England cantered home with more than 15 overs to spare after a brief wobble.
Warwickshire all-rounder Woakes, named player of the match, told BBC Radio: “I felt good today, it is always nice to get a couple (of wickets) early.
“I try to assess conditions early, and work out what it is best to do on the wicket, while taking wickets. I just try and make it as hard as possible for the batter on that wicket.”
Sri Lanka’s batting had faltered repeatedly during a preceding 3-0 T20 series loss to England and it was no great surprise to see them dismissed cheaply after England captain Eoin Morgan won the toss.
The tourists were missing three senior players after Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka were all sent home following a breach of team Covid-19 regulations.
Sri Lanka captain Kusal Perera made a valuable 73 for a Sri Lanka side featuring three debutants.
Together with Wanindu Hasaranga (54) he shared a stand of 99.
Perera and Hasaranga kept England at bay, the former with stylish top-order and the latter aggressively taking 22 in boundaries off fellow leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
Woakes’ return ended the partnership, with Hasaranga holing out in the deep.
That was the start of a collapse that saw seven wickets lost for 40 runs, with left-arm quick Willey removing Perera on his way to 3-44.
Jonny Bairstow hit the first two balls of England’s reply for four before he played on to paceman Binura Fernando for 43.
Morgan and Sam Billings both fell cheaply to fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera.
But Sri Lanka, defending such a low total, needed every chance to go to hand if they were to achieve an improbable victory.
Instead wicketkeeper Perera dropped Moeen Ali first ball. Had he clung on, England would have been 80-5 – by the time Moeen was out for 28 they had all but won the game at 171-5.
Test captain Root batted serenely, hitting just two fours in a 58-ball fifty, before Sam Curran struck the winning runs.
“Joe Root is one of the best in the world in most situations,” said Morgan. “Today he showed his class.”
Such are the demands upon Root, he has been left out of England’s T20 side in recent times as much as to help give him a break from the demands of Test and ODI cricket as much as on form grounds.
But Morgan, speaking on a day where it was confirmed the Twenty20 World Cup starting in October had been moved from India to the United Arab Emirates and Oman because of Covid-19 concerns, said of Root: “You can’t rule him out of the T20 World Cup. He went a long way to getting us to the final in 2016.” (Courtesy AFP)