Sri Lanka regroup after KP and Morgan thrive
England 136 for 9 (Morgan 47, Pietersen 41) v Sri Lanka
Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan showed what might have been for England with a pair of free-flowing 40s, but the rest of England's batting order lacked the guile and expertise to thrive against a canny Sri Lankan attack in the one-off Twenty20 at Bristol. In overcast conditions, England were restricted to 136 for 9, with six of their batsmen failing to reach double-figures.
After winning the toss on a slow surface, Sri Lanka seized the early initiative with two breakthroughs in the first three overs. Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb hadn't batted together since the final of the World Twenty20 in Barbados 13 months ago, but whereas their belligerent strokeplay had served a purpose on the flat decks of the Caribbean, here it translated as rank slogging, and never looked like paying off.
First to go was Lumb, who flapped optimistically at four of his six deliveries, edged a fifth wide of slip and eventually top-edged another hoick over the bowler's head to depart for an ungainly 2 from six balls. Kieswetter, meanwhile lasted one ball longer and made twice as many runs, but his mistimed drive on the up was every bit as ugly, as Thilina Kandamby pouched a simple chance at mid-off to reduce England to 12 for 2.
Who knows what Ian Bell made of it all. England's most free-flowing batsman in the Test series was surprisingly overlooked for this contest, and his non-selection looked even more of an oversight once Pietersen and Morgan were into their stride. Both men produced elegant half-centuries in the third Test at the Rose Bowl, and their fluent form translated effortlessly into an 83-run stand in 8.5 overs.
The pair managed seven fours and five sixes between them, but none was more impressive than Pietersen's first - a premeditated clip through midwicket off a regulation off-stump delivery. It was the stamp of class that has been missing from his game in recent months, and one over later, Morgan showed the sloggers how to hit the ball out of the ground, when he launched into a length delivery from Suranga Lakmal, and lifted it straight back over the bowler's head.
Though England mustered just 33 runs in the Powerplay, Pietersen was ready to raise the tempo when Thisara Perera entered the attack in the seventh over. A brace of fours, including a rarely seen inside-out pull over fine leg, knocked Perera's confidence, and in his next over three full-tosses were wellied into the stands for maximums - two to Morgan, one to Pietersen - in an over that went for 24 all told.
While England's third-wicket pair was in harness, there was no limit to their ambitions. But Morgan, who had been badly dropped on 23 by Angelo Mathews at long-on, hoisted a Lasith Malinga short ball to Mahela Jayawardene on the square leg boundary for 47 from 32 balls, and the innings quickly lost all momentum. Typically, it was a left-arm spinner who then did for Pietersen, as Sanath Jayasuriya marked his return to international cricket by cramping him for room on the cut and flicking the top of his off and middle stumps.
At 101 for 4 in the 13th over, England were suddenly looking vulnerable, and the recalled Samit Patel did nothing to ease the jitters. All the jibes about his failed bleep tests suddenly seemed utterly justified as he dawdled out of his crease after cutting a ball straight to point, and was barely in the frame as the shy came in to whip off his bails.
Ravi Bopara chipped and chivvied for 22 deliveries without ever looking entirely at ease or in form, but having thumped the first boundary of his innings through deep midwicket, he fell to the very next ball from Jayasuriya, whose recall at the age of 41 was already looking justified as he finished with figures of 2 for 18 in three overs.
The remainder of England's innings was as soggy as the English summer. Luke Wright flapped and fell for 9 from 12 balls; Chris Woakes smacked a memorable six during his debut series in Australia, but this time his big swing resulted in a top-edge to mid-on as the wily Malinga served up a slower ball in the final over of the innings, and Stuart Broad's maiden innings as England captain ended with a run-out. England managed one boundary in the last eight overs, and no runs off the bat in Malinga's last six balls. CLICK HERE TO WATCH ALL HIGHLIGHTS