A BRILLIANT century from Yorkshire’s Joe Root’s was in vain as England’s bid to reach the World Cup quarter-finals suffered another setback with a nine-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka in Wellington.
Under-fire Eoin Morgan will not entertain thoughts of a premature World Cup exit, however, even though the result left England on the brink of disaster.
Root became England’s youngest centurion at a World Cup, at the age of 24, as his career-best 121 from 108 balls helped his side post a formidable 309-6.
While Root was the rare shaft of light for Morgan’s team, it proved to be another difficult day for his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance who, batting at No 3 again, was dismissed for just six following three innings of 10 in the previous three group games.
Sri Lanka comfortably reeled in a record chase at the Wellington Regional Stadium with 16 balls to spare, thanks to twin tons from Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara, to inflict yet more pain for England at the venue.
England suffered one of their worst-ever World Cup defeats at the ground nine days ago, when they were left humbled by New Zealand, and this latest reverse means they now have no room for error if they are to reach the knockout phase.
England must win their final two group games against lower-ranked Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the next fortnight or face the unthinkable prospect of going home prematurely.
Morgan was not willing to consider the prospect, however, of an early flight home after his side’s third loss in four games at the tournament.
“It’s not even a thought at the moment,” he said. “Two games to win to get us into a quarter-final.”
Morgan claimed the loss was more difficult to stomach than the two thumpings dished out by Australia and New Zealand to start the tournament.
Morgan’s side never got going in both of those games, but after Root put England in the box seat at the half-way stage, the bowlers posed little threat as Thirimanne and Sangakkara embarked on an unbeaten 212-run stand to coast home.
“It definitely is harder to take,” Morgan said.
“When you don’t turn up for a race like those first two games it’s scratched. Today when we turn up and we’re beaten in the fashion we were is harder to take.”
Morgan bemoaned a bowling performance in which he claimed England simply bowled too many bad balls.
Thirimanne certainly agreed, after he had suggested in his earlier press conference that batting against England’s bowlers had been “very easy”.
The opener was asked to compare England’s attack to Afghanistan, who almost pulled off a stunning win over Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, and said: “To be honest that day Afghanistan’s bowlers did really well but there was a little bit for the seamers.
“Today it was very easy for me to be honest.”
Morgan was at a loss to explain why his bowlers were so ineffective and will wait to see a statistical breakdown of England’s bowling performance in the next couple of days when they will take time off after flying to Adelaide.
“No. I don’t have a theory yet,” he said.
“We bowled a lot of bad balls. Over the next couple of days we’ll get the HawkEye stuff back and the proof will be in that. My feeling is we bowled a lot of bad balls.”