Sri Lanka’s lamentable tour of England ended with lakes forming on the outfield and a gaggle of hardy spectators singing Sweet Caroline in the rain, the visitors having avoided a sixth successive defeat despite another callow collapse.
For Eoin Morgan’s hosts it meant a 2-0 ODI series win to follow a 3-0 victory in the similarly one-sided Twenty20s; had the heavens not opened after rolling Sri Lanka for 166 in 42 overs – Tom Curran claiming four for 35 and two apiece for Chris Woakes and David Willey – a clean sweep would surely have followed.
Pakistan are up next for England, with three ODIs starting in Cardiff on Thursday followed by three more T20s. Babar Azam’s men should offer a sterner and more instructive test, particularly in the shortest format during what is a World Cup year, and, frankly, they will struggle to perform much worse.
“It’s been a tough tour for us,” admitted Kusal Perera, Sri Lanka’s captain, after play was abandoned at 4.15pm. “We performed well in patches but it wasn’t enough. We need to concentrate on our batting.”
Morgan added: “We were dominant today, and we are delighted as we were ruthless. That has been the trend in the T20Is and ODIs: the guys haven’t taken things for granted.”
There had been worrying noises coming out of Sri Lanka even before they set off on tour, a contract dispute between the players and the board suggesting their focus may be compromised. When three senior players were flown home for breaching biosecurity rules last week, any semblance of a contest disappeared.
The upshot was three successive blowouts with the bat in the 50-over leg of the tour, the last of which was summed up by its calamitous conclusion: Asitha Fernando, the No 11, found himself at the same end as Dasun Shanaka, the top scorer with 48 not out, while a gleeful Jonny Bairstow knocked off the zing bails 22 yards away for the simplest of run-outs.
This was the fifth dismissal involving Bairstow amid a strong performance with the gloves. The highlight was a superb reflex catch low to his right to remove Chamika Karunaratne off Tom Curran, followed closely by a smart stumping when his fellow Yorkshireman Adil Rashid fooled Dushmantha Chameera.
The tourists had long since been circling the drain by the time these two tail-enders perished, Morgan having eschewed thoughts of experimentation when he made just one change to the XI – Woakes coming in for Mark Wood – and ruthlessly asked Kusal once again to have a bat after winning the toss.
Many among the 7,500-strong crowd will have wondered why Morgan did not look to stretch his men by going against their preference to chase. However, with ODIs counting towards World Cup qualification, this format remains a results-driven business despite sitting third on England’s list of priorities.
What followed was another display of new-ball excellence from Woakes and Willey, the pair reducing Sri Lanka to 42 for four in the ninth over. Batsman error helped – not least Dhananjaya de Silva, fresh from 91 at the Oval, top-edging a rank hook to long leg off Woakes – but better sides would have struggled.
While the class of Woakes is long-established – his two matches produced six wickets and eight maidens from 20 overs sent down – Willey’s latest return is notable. He led the charts with nine wickets across the three Sri Lanka innings and, though Pathum Nissanka will rue his expansive drive, the removal of Avishka Fernando lbw on review was a classic left-armer’s dismissal.
From there it was over to the elder of the two Currans, Tom responding to Sam’s five-wicket haul in the week with the second best figures of his ODI career and at a time when he was starting to drift into the periphery.
Oshada Fernando ended a promising 18 when he chipped to mid-off and Wanindu Hasaranga repeated De Silva’s departure for 20. Binura Fernando and Karunaratne then both edged behind, with Curran a whisker away from making it five when beating the bat of Chameera in his final over.
For the second match running Moeen Ali failed to catch the eye of Morgan in the field and when a break for rain, with Sri Lanka on 132 for eight, was followed by a terminal downpour in between innings, he was among the batsmen left frustrated.
So, too, Joe Root, who sits 22 runs away from overtaking Alastair Cook (15,737) as England’s leading run-scorer across all three international formats combined. Like the rest of us hoping to witness a decent contest, the Test captain will have to wait for the upcoming encounter with Pakistan.