Handshakes all around as players leave the field at the end of the World Cup match between England and Sri Lanka in Leeds. Picture: Jon Super/AP
Handshakes all around as players leave the field at the end of the World Cup match between England and Sri Lanka in Leeds. Picture: Jon Super/AP

World Cup disaster looms for England after loss to Sri Lanka

OH no, that wasn't part of the plan. England's cruise to the World Cup semi-finals has suddenly hit a very rocky road and potential disaster.

Eoin Morgan's players were engulfed by nerves, self-doubt and plenty of rubbish cricket as they suffered a shock loss to Sri Lanka at Headingley.

Even a monumental effort by Ben Stokes in the closing overs was not sufficient to prevent England losing by 20 runs.

On a slow pitch, England produced a timid run chase that went against all the aggressive and confident batting they had produced in the past four years.

It was almost as though they suffocated themselves with anxiety.

Joe Root and Stokes made half-centuries but the rest crumbled against veteran Lasith Malinga's slingers and the spin of Dhananjaya de Silva.

It means England's final three group matches are poised to be gut-wrenchingly tense affairs.

Depending on other results, they might have to win two out of three to stay in the tournament and, don't forget, they are playing the three other best teams - Australia, India and New Zealand.

Their next match against the Aussies at Lord's on Tuesday should be a cracker.

Stokes and No.11 Mark Wood came together with England needing an improbable 47 more runs.

But Stokes whacked two sixes and two fours and scored 25 of the 26-run last-wicket stand (the other was a wide).

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga proved a handful.
Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga proved a handful.

England were dreaming of the ultimate roller-coaster victory.

But Wood was caught behind off Nuwan Pradeep and Sri Lanka had produced the biggest upset of the tournament.

It was an absolute bolt from the blue.

England have now lost to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the round-robin phase and they are not results you expect from World Cup favourites.

Nobody gave Sri Lanka a chance in this match.

They have played poorly and moaned about almost everything - the pitches, practice facilities, hotels and transport - and appear a divided group undermined by weird selection.

And when they managed just 232-9 in 50 overs, the script was following the predicted course.

It started to change when Jonny Bairstow was lbw for his second golden duck of the tournament.

James Vince was caught in the slips - of course he was - and, following a third-wicket stand of 47 with Root, Morgan belted a full toss back at Isuru Udana and departed to a superb, reflex catch.

Root and Stokes put on a further 54 for the fourth wicket and England again seemed to be in control.

But Root, who now has three 50s and two centuries in the tournament, was strangled by a catch down the legside after Sri Lanka called for a review.

Jos Buttler was leg before and then Moeen Ali was caught at long-off attempting another six.

He'd hit the previous delivery for six over mid-wicket and this was scrambled thinking, the look of a man unable to maintain calmness under pressure.

Liverpool fan Moeen was playing his 100th one-day international and Morgan had arranged a special video tribute from Steve Gerrard to accompany a commemorative cap presentation in the dressing-room before the game.

Stevie G would have been less than impressed with Moeen's shot and ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan described it as "absolutely pathetic" on the radio.

Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid departed in carbon copy fashion in the 41st over - caught behind trying to force de Silva through the offside.

Jofra Archer was another to lose his cool when, with Stokes batting with enormous authority at the other end, he lofted a catch to long-on.

What a soft dismissal.

That left Stokes and Wood with a near-impossible job. They managed more than half the runs required but then Wood nicked off.

Game over, World Cup campaign derailed - at least for the time being.

Stokes was stranded 82 not out. A magnificent innings but, in the end, it counted for nothing.

All was going swimmingly for England when Sri Lanka slumped to 2-3 in the third over of the match.

There was a dazzling counterattack from Avishka Fernando who, playing his first match of this event, scored 49 from 39 balls and twice deposited Archer into the crowd at backward square leg.

Kusal Mendis contributed 46 and Angelo Mathews made 85 from 115 deliveries.

Everybody thought he was going to slowly, but Mathews' approach prove to be dead right.

Moeen bowled 10 overs without conceding a boundary, the first time that has happened in a World Cup match since 2011.

England were professional and disciplined in the field.

But the same cannot be said of their batting and the way they succumbed under duress will give Morgan and head coach Trevor Bayliss big cause for concern.

The longest day turned into the darkest day for England's one-day team since they lost the Champions Trophy semi-final to Pakistan two years ago.

This article originally appeared in the Sun and was republished with permission

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