Kumar Sangakkara is retiring from one-day internationals at the end of this tournament. You have to wonder why. But regardless of how far Sri Lanka progress, Sangakkara will at least go out in personal glory. At Bellerive Oval, he became the first man in ODI history to score centuries in four consecutive innings, and the first to make four hundreds in one World Cup, and together with Tillakaratne Dilshan he ensured a comfortable win over Scotland.
The 148-run victory should mean Sri Lanka finish third in Pool A, assuming Australia beat Scotland and New Zealand defeat Bangladesh. Scotland showed some fight with the bat, but the 195-run partnership compiled by Sangakkara and Dilshan was the difference. To cap off his outstanding day, Sangakkara also moved past Adam Gilchrist to top the all-time World Cup wicketkeeping dismissal tally.
Sangakkara and Dilshan have become one of cricket’s most consistent double-acts and this was their 20th century stand in ODIs; only Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar have combined for more. Sangakkara finished with 124 and Dilshan made 104; Angelo Mathews later added the second-fastest fifty of this World Cup, off 20 balls, but a series of late wickets meant Sri Lanka missed the opportunity for a 400-plus total.
Scotland’s target was 364 and perhaps on 364 days of the year it would be an unrealistic aim against a Full Member. This was one of those days, although Freddie Coleman and Preston Mommsen ensured respectability. Throughout the tournament Scotland have shown enterprise and resolve, impressed observers while coming up short. It was the case once again.
When Kyle Coetzer sent a return catch to Lasith Malinga in the first over, Scotland might have had flashbacks to their being routed by Malinga for 101 in their only previous ODI meeting in 2011. The slow, shaky start continued when Calum MacLeod was bowled by Nuwan Kulasekara for 11 and Matt Machan was trapped lbw by Dilshan for 19.
But Mommsen and Coleman took their lead from the Sangakkara-Dilshan example earlier in the day, finding the gaps, rotating the strike, picking up boundaries. When they came together Scotland needed 320 at more than eight an over, so their efforts were unlikely to affect the outcome of the match, but they at least made Sri Lanka work for it.
Coleman, brought in for his second match of the tournament, took the lead and struck seven boundaries, including a beautiful straight drive off Dushmantha Chameera. Mommsen cover drove well and pulled when the opportunity arose, and both men frustrated Sri Lanka, bringing up half-centuries in reasonably brisk time.
For 75 minutes they worked together before Mommsen drove on the up off Thisara Perera and was caught by a juggling Lahiru Thirimanne for 60 off 75 balls. Coleman followed four overs later when he holed out to long-on off Kulasekara for 70 from 74 balls, but his maiden ODI half-century – which had come off 44 balls – showed his class.
Coleman had been dropped on 54 when Kusal Perera somehow contrived to grass a simple chance from a slice to deep cover, and it was indicate of a Sri Lanka that seemed happy enough to go through the motions in the field, knowing that victory was inevitable. In the end it was: Richie Berrington hung around for 29 but, the lower order fizzled out in the 44th over.
Sri Lanka’s batting had been just too strong. As usual, Sangakkara’s runs came all around the wicket as he picked the gaps or cleared the field with ease. His only half-chance came on 84 when he crunched a full toss from Machan and a diving MacLeod at midwicket got his left hand to the ball on its way to the boundary. Otherwise, Sangakkara was clinical, and struck 13 fours and four sixes.
After reaching his hundred, he plundered 24 off an over from Alasdair Evans during the Powerplay, his footwork and touch allowing him to place the ball wherever Mommsen left a gap. A six slashed over point and a scoop to the fine-leg boundary were especially appealing.
Dilshan and Sangakkara had brought up their centuries from consecutive balls, Dilshan’s coming from his 97th delivery with a single to fine leg off Coetzer, and Sangakkara’s arriving next ball with a two edged to third man off Coetzer from his 86th delivery. They were parted in the next over, but had provided plenty of entertainment.
Dilshan’s hundred was his second of this tournament and he struck 10 fours and one six, and was powerful square of the wicket on both sides. He pulled Josh Davey with disdain, including for a six over square leg off one knee. Dilshan finally fell on 104 when he was caught at mid-off, giving Davey the first of three wickets.
The end of the Sangakkara-Dilshan partnership prompted a minor flurry of wickets. Mahela Jayawardene was unable to immediately click and skied a catch to mid-off against Davey, who next ball had Sangakkara caught behind trying to slice over point. Davey missed the hat-trick but had moved to 14 wickets for the World Cup, making him the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
Mathews and Kusal enjoyed the opportunity to slog with licence, until Kusal was caught in the deep off Rob Taylor for 24 off 13. But it was Mathews who really provided the late highlights, punishing Coleman for dropping him at deep midwicket off Machan on 21.
In Machan’s next over, Mathews clubbed four consecutive sixes all over Coleman or just wide of him, seemingly taunting him over the missed chance in the previous over. The fourth of those sixes brought Mathews his half-century, but Coleman had his revenge next ball when he caught an attempt at a fifth successive six at deep midwicket with Mathews on 51 off 21.
Sri Lanka’s lower order was unable to maintain the momentum: Coleman took another two catches in the same position, and Scotland had done well to peg Sri Lanka back somewhat. Their day started well when Evans moved the ball away from Lahiru Thirimanne in the sixth over and had him caught at slip for 4. But all that did was bring Dilshan and Sangakkara together.