LONDON: Sri Lanka weathered a brilliant knock of 121 by Jos Buttler to beat England by seven runs in the fourth one-day international and take the five-match series to a decider at 2-2.
Veteran left-hander Kumar Sangakkara struck 112 for his 19th ODI century as Sri Lanka posted 300-9 under sunny skies, setting England a tough target to clinch the series at Lord´s.
The big-hitting Buttler came in with his team unraveling on 111-5 but took England to the brink of victory with a 61-ball century, sharing a sixth-wicket partnership of 133 with Ravi Bopara (51).
England required 12 off the last over but wily paceman Lasith Malinga took the wicket of Chris Jordan and then ran out Buttler, a typically masterful over of line and length giving him final figures of 3-52. England finished on 293-8.
The fifth ODI at Edgbaston on Tuesday will settle an oscillating, unpredictable series that peaked at the home of cricket thanks to two superb innings from players at the opposite ends of the careers.
The 36-year-old Sangakkara hit some delightful, flourishing shots to the boundary, mainly through the off side, in his 104-ball knock that contained 14 fours.
He came to the middle following Kusal Perera´s departure for 19 and shared a second-wicket stand of 172 with Tillakaratne Dilshan (71).
They reached their half-centuries in consecutive deliveries before the ever-entertaining Dilshan tried his trademark “Dilscoop” — a paddle shot over his head and behind the wicketkeeper — three times in one over, picking up boundaries from two of them.
Dilshan succumbed to the same shot against James Anderson, however, when he bent down to scoop the ball over his shoulder, missed it and was bowled. Sangakkara´s knock ended after advancing down the wicket to smash spinner James Tredwell, but missed the ball and got stumped.
Mahela Jayawardene´s miserable series continued when he was dismissed by Harry Gurney (4-55) for 7, helping to slow Sri Lanka´s scoring rate. But the tourists averaged 10 per over off the final four overs as they scrambled to the psychologically important 300-run mark.
In the third ODI in Manchester on Wednesday, the tourists had been skittled out for just 67.Malinga removed Alastair Cook (1) and Ian Bell (7) inside the first 20 balls of England reply, and the hosts were further unstuck by losing Gary Ballance for 42 and Joe Root for 43, exposing the middle order.
Eoin Morgan´s departure for 12 brought Buttler to the crease for what was one of the best ODI innings by an Englishman. He kissed his helmet when he reached his maiden ODI century — the fastest ever at Lord´s — and went on to make the highest ODI score by an English wicketkeeper.
With five overs left, England required 56 but Buttler hit 19 off five balls from Ajantha Mendis in the 46th over to give the hosts renewed hope.Malinga — arguably the best death bowler in cricket — shot down their chances, though, and kept the series alive.