Kumar Sangakkara is a pillar of strength in Sri Lanka’s batting for over a decade now. On Thursday, the elegant left-hander guided the Islanders to a memorable victory over England with a brilliant unbeaten 134 in the ICC Champions Trophy.
The victory, after the one-wicket loss to New Zealand, kept Sri Lanka in the hunt for a berth in the semi-finals of the tournament.
A victory in the day/night clash would have taken England through to the semi-finals as one of the top two team from the group while defeat would have dumped Sri Lanka out. Now all is still left to play for with New Zealand leading the group on three points.
Sangakkara, who walked in at the fall of Kushal Perera’s wicket in the third over, announced his arrival with a classy boundary off James Anderson through backward point. He then chipped down the track and lifted Stuart Broad for another boundary over the deep midwicket area.
He went on to forge a good partnership with Tillakaratne Dilshan, adding 92 runs for the second wicket, which helped Sri Lanka lay a solid base in the chase of a competitive 294 for victory.
After Dilshan was caught in the deep off Graeme Swann, Sangakkara took upon the onus of scoring quick runs.
Ably supported by veteran Mahela Jayawardene, he was always in command even as controlled bowling by England medium pacer Ravi Bopara and returning spinner Swann helped keep the lid on his attacking tendencies. By the halfway stage the required run-rate had crept up to seven an over, but Sangakkara adopted a positive approach and got to his half-century in the 22nd over with a punch towards long-on off Bopara.
As Jayawardene perished in the batting power play, he ensured Sri Lanka made full use of it by plundering quick runs.
The southpaw soon registered his 15th ODI century with a dab towards long-off, off Bresnan.
And, fittingly, finished he the game with a boundary off Broad as Sri Lanka won by seven wickets, in 47.1 overs. Sanga was unbeaten on 134 off 135 balls.
Image: Kumar Sangakkara
Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty Images