Having thrashed the Sri Lankans by a handsome margin of 10 wickets in the second ODI, England went into the fourth match on a high, even though the previous match was rained out. They were 1-0 up in the series, and only needed to win one of the remaining two games at London to clinch the series. As such, they went into the Kennington Oval match as favourites. All the pressure was thus on Sri Lanka. The visitors, to their credit, put on an excellent display batting first in a rain-marred game. The Lankans batted with resolve to give England a tough challenge, but the host's confidence in one-dayers is on a different level altogether these days, as they got home with ease.
England opener Jason Roy's stunning hundred was the big difference between the teams at the end of the day. England had been dealt with a massive blow even before the chase began as fitness issues forced them to open with Moeen Ali instead of the in-form Alex Hales. Ali hasn't been in great form with the bat, and his early dismissal put the hosts in a spot of bother. But, Roy, who was the man of the match in the second match for his hundred, was in unstoppable form. He blazed away, rarely looking in any kind of trouble. With 13 fours and three sixes, his 118-ball 162 clinched it for England.
Even as Roy stood out in the chase, Joe Root also played a crucial knock. A key member of the team, Root had been falling for low scores in the previous matches. As such, England would have been slightly worried over his form. But, Root brought his experience into play to come up with a sensible knock and aided Roy in a second-wicket partnership that set up the chase nicely for the hosts. Root wasn't out of form, but needed to spend some time at the crease, which is exactly what he did at London. Although he couldn't carry on to a hundred, the middle-order made sure there was no hiccup in store, coming up with cameos.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, managed to find some positives in another defeat. This has not been a memorable tour for them, so they will be gathering whatever plusses they can. Having failed in the previous matches, Danushka Gunathilaka was under pressure to deliver. And, he responded with a fluent half-century even though the innings was interrupted by rain. Kusal Mendis, in many ways, has been the find of the tour for the Lankans, and he responded with yet another brisk knock of 77. Dinesh Chandimal and skipper Angelo Mathews, again not completely fit, continued their good run with breezy fifties. It gave Sri Lanka a genuine chance of winning.
Sri Lankan bowlers needed to back their batsmen to register their first win in the one-day series. But, the rollicking form that Roy is in, he gave the Lankan bowlers no chance, once again exploiting their inexperience. Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep went for plenty of runs, Mathews did not bowl too many overs while Seekkuge Prasanna also had an off-day. Farveez Maharoof was chosen for his experience, but hasn't delivered to expectations. While Upul Tharanga's lower order batting is puzzling so is Dasun Shanaka being under bowled. He sent down only one over at London, and wasn't given too many overs previously as well.
--By A Cricket Analyst