LONDON: Kumar Sangakkara's unbeaten 134 and the brainwave to promote fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara to No.5 featured prominently in Sri Lanka's rousing seven-wicket win over England, on Thursday night.
Dismissed for a humiliating total in their first game versus New Zealand and racing after England's imposing 293/7 to stay alive in the tournament, Sri Lanka completed the task with 17 balls to spare, opening up a world of possibilities in Group 'A'.
The Kiwis, with three points, are currently on top of the cluster; England and Sri Lanka follow on two points apiece; while Australia are the laggards of the group with a solitary point.
Each team has a game in hand which makes it likely that calculators may have to be pressed into service if Australia defeat Sri Lanka - irrespective of what transpires in the England-New Zealand fixture.
Their big three came to the party right in time for the Islanders. Sangakkara piloted the chase to perfection, first with old warhorses Tillakratane Dilshan (44) and Mahela Jayawardene (42) and then with Kulasekara, who blasted a 38-ball 58 after he was unexpectedly promoted with Lanka needing 107 off the last 15 overs.
Kulasekara's smashed disdainful sixes off Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad to destroy the contest, and would have made England rue a missed run-out chance that could have sent him packing early in his knock.
England had earlier made the most of Lanka's fielding lapses to reach an impressive total as Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root contributed half-centuries and Ravi Bopara took 28 off Shaminda Eranga's last over of the innings. Unfortunately, for the hosts, it all came to naught, and now they have to win their last match against New Zealand to ensure a place in the last four.
Sri Lanka had a far from ideal start to their pursuit, but propped themselves up on a string of partnerships, all spearheaded by the dashing Sangakkara.
Ninety-two were collected with Dilshan and 85 with Mahela Jayawardene. Dilshan sought to check his slow start by targeting Root, England's fifth bowler who had earlier starred with a quick fifty, but was caught at long-on when he tried to force the pace against Swann's off-spin.
Jayawardene's stay was a delightful collection of hits off Broad, undoubtedly the most expensive of England's bowlers.
Just when these two were pulling Lanka nearer home, Jayawardene pulled James Anderson to square-leg, where substitute Johnny Bairstow took a good catch. But the move to promote Kulasekara turned out to be the tipping point.
Making the most of Sri Lanka's lapses in the field, Trott (76), Alastair Cook (59) and Joe Root (68) formed the cornerstone of England's 293-7 after they were sent in to bat by.
The ease with which the home team gathered runs was at all points suggestive of a big total. But Sri Lanka, who needed to win the match to stay alive in the tournament, knocked out four wickets for five runs to make it 254-7 in the 48th over.
It was a false dawn, for Ravi Bopara came in and smashed Eranga to smithereens, his three sixes and two boundaries restoring England to a position of advantage.
Cook, who was dropped twice by the normally alert Dilshan, collaborated with Trott for 83 following Ian Bell's exit playing a horrible shot off Eranga.
England's captain and Trott, similar in their preference for gradual accumulation, were also out in similar fashion: leg-before trying to sweep left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
Meanwhile, Joe Root - the victim of David Warner's "unprovoked physical attack" - appeared to have recovered entirely from his recent grievous experience as he struck five sweet fours in a brisk half-century.
Root lent crucial impetus, his fifty taking up just 43 balls as England reached 201-2 at the end of 40 overs, thanks to an 87-run stand between Trott and Root.
Three wickets fell with the score on 249. Slinger Lasith Malinga had Root caught on the square-leg fence and trapped Eoin Morgan leg-before (a highly dubious decision!) off successive balls, before seamer Nuwan Kulasekara removed Jos Buttler for a second-ball duck.
But Bopara tore into Eranga's 50th over, clearing the ropes three times and ensuring England finished in the vicinity of 300 - a walk in the park once Kulasekara's found his range.
Fantasy cricket: Was Kumar Sangakkara in your team?