Cricket: Sri Lanka v England: Joe Root century inspires Pallekele win

An unbeaten century from Joe Root guided England to a five-wicket victory in the fifth one-day international against Sri Lanka in Pallekele.

Beginning their chase of 240 a day late after Wednesday’s rain, they lost both openers cheaply inside eight overs.

James Taylor (68) and Root put on 104 for the third wicket to revive England.

And Root added 86 with Ravi Bopara, reaching 100 with a six, as England won with five balls left to cut Sri Lanka’s lead to 3-2 with two matches left.

After seamer Chris Woakes restricted Sri Lanka with 6-47 before rain intervened on Wednesday, runs for a new-look middle order kept the series alive and brought further encouragement for England as they prepare for the World Cup in February.

Under-fire skipper Alastair Cook, returning to the top of the order following his one-match ban for his team’s slow over-rate, began with a positive intent under clear skies, cutting two boundaries in the opening over.

With spin in operation at both ends at the start of the innings, partner Moeen Ali added another boundary but was bowled in the second over playing an ungainly heave to Sachithra Senanayake’s fourth delivery in his first match since a suspension for an illegal action.

Cook’s problems pushing forward against spin resurfaced and he would have been lbw had the Sri Lankans chosen to review a not-out decision, but he was then dismissed in similar fashion for 20, a second wicket for Senanayake, who was still able to cause problems despite not generating much spin with his remodelled action.

Root and Taylor batted with calm assurance to keep the tourists comfortably ahead of the required rate when the clouds built up to offer the threat of a Duckworth-Lewis denouement.

Taylor, in only his fourth ODI, struck a six over long-on when only on three and reached 50 from 67 balls, Sri Lanka missing the variety of a left-arm spinner, with the wily Rangana Herath injured.

But having shared in England’s first century partnership of the series, the diminutive 24-year-old cut a forlorn figure when he picked out backward square-leg in the 29th over, with 101 still needed.

Bopara (28) provided the ideal foil for Root, but with only 15 needed from as many balls he holed out to long on.

Eoin Morgan reverse swept his first ball for four before Root guided his team to the highest successful run chase at Pallekele, putting the tourists in fine fettle for the penultimate match of the series on Saturday.

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