Sam Billings and Liam Livingstone burnished their Twenty20 credentials as England withstood a top-order wobble to seal a series win over Sri Lanka following a rain-affected second contest.
The duo are on the fringes of the limited-overs setup but after England stuttered to 36-4 in pursuit of 112 — a target reduced to 103 from 18 overs following a sharp shower — they put on a crucial 54 from 48 balls.
Billings (24) departed with 13 still needed but Livingstone (29 not out) and Sam Curran (16 not out) got England over the line with five wickets and 11 balls to spare as they moved into an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
A stellar collective effort in the field restricted Sri Lanka to 111-7 — the lowest total England has ever conceded when it has bowled the full allotment — with Mark Wood and Adil Rashid taking two wickets apiece.
Another underwhelming display with the bat by Sri Lanka after winning the toss led to fears of another blowout following their eight-wicket defeat the day before, but an England top order missing Jos Buttler because of a calf strain floundered on an awkward surface, the same one as Wednesday.
Then, the tourists struggled with occasional variable bounce, losing wickets throughout and only occasionally finding the boundary. It was a similar story 24 hours later as David Willey and Sam Curran suffocated Sri Lanka, who stumbled to 26-2 after the first powerplay without hitting a four or six.
It marked the first time in this format England had prevented its opponent from finding the rope in the first six overs — Sri Lanka eventually got its boundary count up and running after 46 balls — while Curran’s nimble footwork ran out Danushka Gunathilaka, whose opening partner Avishka Fernando holed out to deep square leg.
Kusal Mendis carved Mark Wood away wide of third man for Sri Lanka’s first four in the eighth over and a little late swivel pulled Chris Jordan for six, but a 50-run stand alongside Kusal Perera used up 54 balls, with the pair then departing in quick succession.
Perera, dropped on 19 by Dawid Malan, added just two more to his total before toe-ending a switch hit off Rashid limply to cover in the 13th over. Five balls later, Mendis departed for a run-a-ball 39 after top-edging Wood high into the night sky.
Jonny Bairstow took a difficult steepler running to his left, while Wood had two in two when Dickwella got a leading edge to cover.
Rashid had his second when Wanindu Hasaranga missed a hoick after charging down the pitch, leaving Bairstow with a simple stumping. Sri Lanka was unable to gather any momentum until Isuru Udana clobbered Jordan out of the ground as they went past three figures in the final over.
Any thought of a facile chase on a problematic pitch was banished quickly when Bairstow was cleaned up in the second over, while Malan had his second single figure score of the series when trapped in front by Dushmantha Chameera, a not out decision overturned when the review showed the ball would have thudded into leg stump.
Those supporting Sri Lanka among the nearly 3,000 fans were in full voice when Morgan slapped to cover as England lurched to 31-3 at the end of six overs. The position worsened when Jason Roy holed out to long on for 17 as he tried to up the tempo.
Billings and Livingstone made nervy starts — both could have chopped on early into their innings — but gradually warmed to their task with rain in the air, manipulating the field and running hard between the wickets.
They carried England to 69-4 after 12 overs when the shower grew heavier, leading to a brief break and a reduced target from 12 fewer balls.
Billings chopped Hasaranga on to his stumps, but an eight-ball cameo from Curran finished the match, giving England a series win ahead of the final match at Southampton on Saturday.
Source: Associated Press