Cricket World Cup: England Routed By Sri Lanka

England’s knackered voyagers have entertained us royally in an epic winter. But after a ten-wicket shoeing from Sri Lanka and their colourful fans, they can make like Ulysses and head home at last.
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England’s knackered voyagers have entertained us royally in an epic winter. But after a ten-wicket shoeing from Sri Lanka and their colourful fans, they can make like Ulysses and head home at last.

It’s hot and steamy in Colombo and England’s yellow-bibbed subs have been banished to the boundary-side cheap seats while their playing team-mates relax in colonial-style recliners, Swanny holding court. New arrivals Adil Rashid and Jade Dernbach are smiling but Colly and Jimmy don’t look chuffed at being kicked out of the gang.

In the commentary box Beef’s sporting a refreshing No2 crop, and on the pitch Sri Lanka skipper Sangakkara, who looks like he’s borrowed Lance Armstrong’s time-trialling helmet, has put the heat on his opposite number by opening with the twirling Dilshan. Having won the toss, Strauss, swinging like a prize-fighting drunk, is bowled for a scratchy five. And when Bell’s peachy innings is consigned to cameo status England are on the sweatiest of racks.

The atmosphere is phenomenal. There’s a cacophony of horns, bells, whistles, drums and trumpets, the loudest of which blares what sound like the opening strains of the Godfather theme to huge cheers. There’s no Livin’ on a Prayer, though the small away following does include some authentic English slappers flying the flag in Union Jack T-shirts. Meanwhile, yellow-and-blue-afro-wearing locals hold up banners predicting dire fates like “England snad today”.

Trott, sporting a raffish neckerchief, is not for snadding, though. Nurdling and sweeping, he settles the innings down with Bopara as England chug away from meltdown.

Not before time, Bumble arrives in the Sky box. “I’m on a crusade,” he announces, though not against rising oil prices or crap school dinners but the propensity of modern-day batsman to keep bowlers waiting. You tell ‘em Bumble; the time-wasting, jockstrap-jiggling eejits.

Colleague Alan Wilkins gives new meaning to the term Boring Middle Overs by listing all the broadcasters covering the event around the world and regaling viewers with a slew of stats. “If the ball pitches outside leg stump to a left-hander it cannot be given out,” he then spits, stating the bleeding obvious with excessive vehemence. I picture being stuck with him late doors in the hotel bar. “Nightcap, Jim?” “No thanks, Alan. Must press my slacks for the morning.”

Out in the middle Morgan ups the pace, with Trott’s neckerchief now sagging with sweat. “Get a bucket” jokes Bumble as Sri Lanka drop the Irishman for a third time and Muralitharan loses it, barking expletives at his ham-fisted fielders. “Did you see Murali?” he cries, metaphorically nudging Nass in the midriff.

As for Straussy and the boys, it’s time for a very well-earned break and to take stock of only thing that’s really mattered this winter: stuffing the Aussies in their own backyard.

A promoted Swanny arrives and departs in a switch-hitting twirl of arms and legs. And with his Michael Hutchence moptop bouncing, Malinga keeps England tied to the crease with his spearing yorkers, while Mendis, serving up a mixed bag of wrong uns, leg-spinners and “flickers”, and chubby sidekick Herath are harder to get away than a dose of Colombo clap.

England’s batsmen have more joy against a hobbling Murali, Trott compiling a fine 86 before Prior pushes England to 229-6. It’s a solid effort and considering New Zealand took a similar route in strangling South Africa on Friday it might be enough. Sri Lanka, as they are about to prove though, are no chokers.

“I’ve been there myself,” drones Nick Knight as Sky’s studio pundits discuss Strauss’s scratchy knock at the interval. Time to switch to ESPN where former Indian international turned MP Navjot Sidhu is in full flow. “England is a car without the motor,” he booms, playing the coked-up Jimmy Hill to Simon Hughes’s Trevor Brooking. With the Indians due in the summer, Sky should be putting the feelers out for Navjot now, a potential dream pairing with Bumble.

Under lights the Colombo wicket used to have snakes in it till it was raised three and a half feet higher above the marshland it’s sited on. England need early wickets and though Swanny’s turning it and Tremlett’s getting some swing, Dilshan’s batting like he’s got a turbo-charged tuk-tuk to catch. The crowd ramps up the noise levels accordingly and it’s not long before England’s crease-bound, reverse-sweeping efforts start to look woefully inadequate.

Tony Greig is spurred into reminiscing about Jayasuriya smashing it at an earlier World Cup, though it’s safe to assume he’s not trying to ingratiate himself with his co-commentators.

With Dilshan and fellow opener Tharanga slipping an ether-soaked rag over the noses of England’s tiring bowlers, it’s time for Beef and Nass to start the inquest, sharing an enjoyable exchange on the merits of sweeping Sri Lankan spinners, which Nass just shades I reckon.

Mercifully upping the tempo, Dilshan checks in for his ton first as the unrelenting horns and trumpets enter their seventh straight hour of honking and blaring. The Sri Lankan openers have been too good, but it’s been an even better dig from the all-dancing, all-singing Sri Lanka fans. If you’re going to get stuffed in a World Cup quarter-final, this is how you’d want it to happen.

As for Straussy and the boys, it’s time for a very well-earned break and to take stock of only thing that’s really mattered this winter: stuffing the Aussies in their own backyard.

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