Lasith Malinga ran through the power-packed England batting line-up at Headingley to dramatically revive his side’s campaign at the 2019 World Cup – a result that threw the semi-final race wide open. Lawrence Booth revisits what happened to be perhaps the greatest upset of the tournament in the 2020 Wisden Almanack.

First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack

England v Sri Lanka
Match 27, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Headingley, Leeds
June 21, 2019

No one saw this coming – least of all England. At 127 for three in the 31st over, with Root ticking off his fifth score of 50 or more, they were on course for a win that would leave them in striking distance of the semis. But the pitch was slow, and so was their progress.

When Malinga, having earlier disposed of the openers, returned to have Root caught down the leg side on review, then Buttler trapped by a trademark yorker, Sri Lanka perked up. Stokes stayed calm, but his partners panicked. The ball after slog-sweeping de Silva for six, Ali picked out long-off, a stroke described by Michael Vaughan as “completely pathetic”; in de Silva’s next over, Woakes and Rashid were both caught behind trying to cut; Archer heaved to long-on.

As Wood trudged out, England required 47 off 38 – and Stokes had to make the bulk. He brought the crowd to life with successive sixes off Udana, then successive fours off Pradeep Fernando, only for Wood to edge the last ball of the 47th over.

Five years earlier, Sri Lanka had won a gripping Leeds Test after important runs from Mathews. Here, he chiselled out an unbeaten 85 from 115 deliveries to repair a scoreboard that had read three for two, and later 133 for five, with Rashid on a hat-trick. Other contributions had come from Avishka Fernando, who counter-attacked on his World Cup debut, twice pulling Archer for six, and Kusal Mendis. Still, England hadn’t failed to chase anything lower than 233 since January 2014.

They wouldn’t stumble now, would they? Yes, they would, leaving Buttler to bemoan a lack of intent, and others to draw comparisons to the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final defeat by Pakistan in Cardiff.