The show of breezy batting competence in the face of a 300-plus target by the Sri Lankans means another contender for the World Cup has hit the straps and is ready for the royal battles ahead in the knockouts this month. In the aftermath of the Auckland thriller of Saturday, even a match of 621 runs in Wellington on Sunday seemed humdrum. There is nothing quite like a tense finish and the possibility of any result, including a possible scores-level situation, being around until the climactic moment lends a thrill that is hard to match in cricket.
Credit should go to the Sri Lankans for being eternal contenders who have never been out of the reckoning since they won the cup in 1996 (but floundered as defending champions in UK in 1999). They were beaten finalists in the last two competitions and a semi-finalist who lost to Australia in 2003, which means only the champion team has kept them away from the cup on the last three occasions. No doubt they are the most consistent side in the tournament although they have not won it for 19 years now.
There is an evergreen quality to the batting of Kumar Sangakkara that never wilts while facing the stress of competition. A smooth flowing second century in this World Cup from the stalwart -- off 70 balls making it his fastest in ODIs -- put the issue beyond doubt against England, an opponent they had faced seven times at home just before the World Cup. Sanga dominated the stand with opener Lahiru Thirimanne, who scored a century too, and the Twitter jokes began about the eternally hopeless looking England whose only two World Cup final appearances in 1979 and 1987 are but distant memories now.
The top four of the Sri Lankan batting order – Dilshan, Thirimanne, Sangakkara (2) and Jayawardene - have all made centuries now. It might be said that they are top heavy and rely heavily on the top order plus skipper Angelo Matthew to produce all the runs. But with the pick of the islanders being in such batting form it can be said that opponents in the last eight would have to fear them. Coming into the World Cup, the Lankans seemed an unfashionable side, but they have changed all that with their own brand of professionalism.
England face an awkward must win matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, which means their qualifying for the quarter finals is no more an assumed certainty with New Zealand and Sri Lanka having already clinched places while Australia will roar back to form in time to take a spot. They did not help their cause any by dropping catches off an attack that wilted in the face of a McCullum onslaught in the opening weekend and which looks very vulnerable now.
The minnows who arrived via the qualifying tournaments are also playing well enough to cloud the prospects of teams that may have assumed an automatic path to the last eight. England may be facing two lighter weights in the remaining matches, but not even the Barmy Army would be betting a few bob on them. It will be interesting to see if the bookmakers change their cup odds to reflect all that has happened in an exciting weekend of World Cup action....