There could hardly have been a worse advertisement for Andrew Strauss’ “Super Series” format. Designed to bring in greater relevance to the bilateral game across formats, the scoreline is now an omni-shambolic 18-4, with Sri Lanka’s closest brush with success coming in the tied ODI at Trent Bridge. Every other game has seen meek surrenders of varying degrees of ignominy. The final ODI at Cardiff was no different, with England sleepwalking to a 122 run victory, thanks to a dominant performance throughout the length of the match.
Joe Root spoke about how any one of England’s top 6 could score a double hundred, with the kind of confidence that comes from flaying attacks like Sri Lanka’s. On Saturday, James Vince, batting for the first time in an ODI, started off with a brisk 51, in partnership with Jason Roy, who was stepping down to pacemen with the swagger of a 10 year old kid playing a video game in amateur mode. Such are England’s confidence levels that, when he finally holed out to deep mid wicket, there was no cause for remorse after a run-a-ball 34. Root walked in, and first ball, crunched a cover drive off Suranga Lakmal for four. It felt like a baton relay of equally talented batsmen, oblivious to formalities like “getting an eye in”.
In windy Welsh conditions, Root, and later Buttler, prospered, the inventive and the cheeky just as productive as their traditional shot making. At the end of 50 overs, 324 for 7 was apt reflection of the acceleration from Buttler, who went at a strike rate of 225 over his last 20 balls. Everyone had fun, and except for the minor issue of captain Eoin Morgan struggling to make it big, England’s batting has hit such a purple patch they did not need the likes of Moeen Ali and Alex Hales against this Lankan attack.
Devoid of spinning riches, with the cupboard now as bare as it gets, it was Danushka Gunathilaka, opening batsman and part-timer, who shone with the ball, returning career-best figures of 3 for 48. The rest of the attack told a familiar tale, and Chaminda Bandara, with 1 for 83 off 10 on debut, reflected Sri Lanka’s troubles over the course of this tour. Injuries, suspect action tests and a general sense of mediocrity have resulted in haplessness against England’s in-form batting order.
England’s bowling hardly had to toil, with an underconfident top order throwing wickets away and falling to run-outs, as the promising Kusal Mendis did after a strong start. Chandimal’s performance with the bat has been the sole respite amid all this, as he went to get his 4th fifty in this series, before falling to a Willey jaffa, that tended to take a hint of reverse swing. Gunathilaka had an impressive game overall, with an attractive 48 at the top of the order to go with his 3 wickets. Apart from this duo, everything else was just a formality, as they crashed to a 122 run defeat that only felt a matter of time.
The sole T20 fixture awaits them at The Rose Bowl, where they would look to salvage their first victorious points in the Super Series. With literally nothing to play for, Matthews and his men might as well go out and play some fearless, carefree cricket. Not much else could go wrong after these twin thrashings in the Test and ODI legs.