LONDON (AP) — Sri Lanka made light of an imposing target of 294 by beating England with 17 balls to spare to stay alive in the Champions Trophy on Thursday.

England was on course to clinch a semifinal berth after posting 293-7 under The Oval lights, but a century by Kumar Sangakkara and brilliant late fireworks from Nuwan Kulasekara led Sri Lanka to 297-3, the second-best successful run chase in Oval history.

The seven-wicket win meant Group A remained an open race for the semis, with New Zealand on 3 points, Sri Lanka and England on 2, and defending champion Australia also in contention on 1.

The Sri Lankans were all out for 138 last Sunday in a loss to New Zealand, so their prospects were dim when they were asked to score at nearly 6 an over in the dusk. But the old heads spearheaded the chase and were at it almost straight away. Sangakkara was called on after only 14 balls, after opener Kusal Perera was out for 6.

He and Tillakaratne Dilshan, the world's two leading ODI scorers last year, forced England to try six bowlers against them as they combined for 92 before Dilshan was out for 44 with a big heave to long on.

Sangakkara was then joined by Mahela Jayawardene. They've known each other a long time, and they're partners in a seafood restaurant in Colombo called Ministry of Crab. They were as tough as crabs together, putting on 85 for the third wicket before Jayawardene holed out to deep square leg to give James Anderson his second wicket at 187-3.

Sri Lanka surprisingly promoted bowling allrounder Kulasekara, who was the only change in the team after the New Zealand loss. But it was an inspired choice.

With Sangakkara unmovable, Kulasekara saw the victory line and raced to it. He whacked an unbeaten 58 off 38 balls, including successive sixes off spinner Graeme Swann and another six off Stuart Broad over fine leg.

Sangakkara brought up his 15th ODI century off 111 balls, and hit the winning runs to begin the 48th over, his 12th four through square leg. He was unbeaten on 134 off 135 balls, and left Sri Lanka to play Australia on Monday for a place in the semis.

England will meet the Kiwis on Sunday for the other spot.

England paced its innings virtually to perfection, after being reluctantly sent in to bat first. Starting with deliberate caution in the lunchtime gloom, the English made the scoreboard tick over with a gradual but dour regularity while protecting wickets. Their gameplan was boosted by five dropped catches.

Opener Ian Bell was the recipient of one drop before he was out for 20, bringing in Jonathan Trott, who anchored England for the middle 30 overs.

His chanceless knock of 76 included partnerships of 83 with Cook and 87 with Joe Root.

Cook was dropped on 23 and 56 and was finally out lbw to spinner Rangana Herath. The captain compounded his missed sweep by wasting the team's sole video review.

Trott and Root upped the run-rate. Root's face was at the end of David Warner's punch in a pub early Sunday that got the Australian suspended on Thursday, and while the incident embarrassed the England batsman, it had no effect on his growing stage presence.

Root was given lives on 37 and 57 off unlucky fast bowler Lasith Malinga. He and Trott had England primed for late frolics by lifting the score to 201-2 with 10 overs to go.

Trott was first to depart, Root followed and England went into a mini collapse. But Ravi Bopara, whose no-pressure, late-inning blasts helped England beat New Zealand and Australia in the last eight days, came through again when he took 28 off the last over to help England plunder 92 runs off the last 10 overs. Bopara finished with an unbeaten 33 off 13 balls. A few hours later, his contribution was shaded by Kulasekara.

 

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