Cricket: Sri Lanka hammer England as Pakistan falter

SYDNEY - Sri Lanka inflicted England's third crushing defeat by a Test nation at this World Cup with a nine-wicket win on Sunday that left their opponents' quarter-final hopes hanging by a thread as Pakistan were left looking to their bowlers to beat Zimbabwe.

Chasing 310 to win, Sri Lanka cruised to a seemingly stiff target with 16 balls to spare as Lahiru Thirimanne, who ended the match with a six off Chris Woakes to be 139 not out, and Kumar Sangakkara (117 not out) shared an unbroken partnership of 212 for the second wicket in Wellington.

The 37-year-old Sangakkara went to three figures off 70 balls, including ten fours and two sixes.

It was the quickest of all the veteran left-hander's 23 one-day international hundreds and second in in as many matches after he marked his 400th ODI with an unbeaten 105 against Bangladesh.

Yet Sangakkara insisted he still planned to retire from white-ball cricket after the World Cup as he was "getting old".

"Everything I tried came off. But the openers had a great start and that was an exceptional innings by Thirimanne," he said after a win that left 1996 champions Sri Lanka, losing finalists at the last two World Cups, on course for the quarter-finals.

England opened this World Cup with a 111-run loss to Australia before suffering an even more humiliating eight-wicket defeat by New Zealand, the other tournament co-hosts.

What made Sunday's result all the worse was that they posted a decent total of 309 for six, with the 24-year-old Joe Root becoming the youngest England batsman to score a World Cup century on his way to 121.

But Root experienced the other side of the game when he floored a slip chance given by Thirimanne, on three, off Stuart Broad although the blame lay with wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who shaped to go for the chance before pulling out late.

England were unable to gain much swing on a ground where New Zealand's Tim Southee had taken seven for 33 against them when they were skittled out for just 123 last week.

Broad and James Anderson, England's senior bowlers, saw their combined 18 wicketless overs cost 115 runs.

'Way off the mark'

"At 'half-time' we went in thinking we had a more than par score," said England captain Eoin Morgan. "Joe Root was exceptional." However, Morgan didn't spare his bowlers' feelings.

"We were way off the mark. When we are bowling well, it's a good attack but you can pick it apart when we're not bowling well." Sunday's other match saw Pakistan, champions when the World Cup was last staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1992, held to 235 for seven by Zimbabwe in Brisbane.

Pakistan came into this match bottom of Pool B and without a win after defeats by arch-rivals India (76 runs) and the West Indies (150 runs).

Zimbabwe had conceded 300-plus totals in defeats by both the West Indies and South Africa, while their four-wicket pool win over the UAE saw the amateurs make 285 for six.

But it was a different story at the Gabba, with left-arm spinner Sean Williams taking two for 48.

Williams grabbed two wickets in three balls, including bowling dangerman Shahid Afridi, 35 on Sunday, for a second-ball duck with a classic delivery that turned past the outside edge.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq again played the anchor role until he holed out for 73 off Tendai Chatara.

It meant Misbah, who equalled Vivian Richards's record for the fastest Test hundred, off 56 balls, against Australia in Abu Dhabi in November, had still to score a maiden one-day international century after 145 innings at this level.

Tailender Wahab Riaz added late impetus with 54 not out - his first ODI fifty - off 46 balls.

"Anything under 250 as a bowling unit on these wickets is a bonus and we are pleased," said Williams.

"The key now is to not panic. If we bat the way we have been, we should get to that score comfortably."