March 26, 2016
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
A drubbing at the hands of West Indies, a sensational run chase against South Africa, and a nerve-jangling finish against Afghanistan – England have perhaps had the most interesting campaign in Group 1, and they haven’t even had their customary big-tournament meltdown yet. There is a chance they will not have a meltdown at all. Eoin Morgan leads a side that has a little steel to it, which perhaps has not been the case in previous England sides. They have withstood onslaughts, and done enough – even if it is just enough – to win. Defending champions Sri Lanka, have to win to stay alive, after West Indies overcame South Africa in Nagpur. With just one game remaining, England will book their berth in the semi-finals with a victory, but a loss – by any margin – will mean their net run-rate is lower than that of South Africa’s.
Despite the middling total against Afghanistan, England’s batting still appears their latest asset. Joe Root is the form batsman from either side, and there is a spark to that top order, which has poise, imagination and power in equal measure.
They have also handled spin moderately well, so far in the tournament. They played Samuel Badree out safely for 34 runs in their first match, which is much better than the performance Sri Lanka mustered against the same bowler. Imran Tahir didn’t rattle them either. Sri Lanka will have been encouraged that Afghanistan’s talented Rashid Khan did claim figures of 2 for 17 on a slow Delhi surface however, and will hope their own leggie, Jeffrey Vandersay, can inflict similar damage.
If it’s Sri Lanka’s spinners England are worried about, Sri Lanka should be worried about Sri Lanka’s batsmen. It would be a waste of time to unpack the top order’s failure against West Indies, because those same flaws had been evident in Sri Lanka’s previous series, and the one before that, and the one before even that. There have been hard words, from fans and ex-players alike, from across the Palk Strait. “Take responsibility,” is an oft-heard refrain. Encouragingly, the team has at least stopped referring to their current state as a “transition period”.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWLLL
In the spotlight
He’s promised much in the competition to date but, with a top score of 30 in three innings, more is expected of Jos Buttler, England’s T20 vice-captain and superstar-in-waiting. With the sharp end of the tournament now upon England, there’s no time to fit in another dress rehearsal. Against Afghanistan, Buttler was guilty of attempting too much too soon on a wicket that demanded a hint of circumspection. Admittedly, it took a scorching catch to remove him but, given how destructive he can be when he gets going, he’ll know this time around that he can afford a few sighters to find his range.
In the midst of an otherwise forlorn performance against West Indies, the batting exploits of Thisara Perera were a lone crumb of comfort. From the depths of 47 for 5, his 40 from 29 balls at least offered his side a token target to defend. As it happens, he then conceded the contest in the space of two legal deliveries, but his introduction in the 19th over – with just seven runs to defend – was an unfair reflection of his status as Sri Lanka’s go-to death bowler. In the absence of Lasith Malinga, recovering back home from a knee injury, he has big shoes to fill.
Alex Hales was playing football with the rest of the squad before training on Friday, so he seems to be on the mend after his back injury. James Vince will make way at the top of the order if so. Liam Dawson’s international debut is sure to be put on the back-burner following the success of Liam Plunkett against Afghanistan, plus the fact that Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid bowled just five overs between them in that match.
England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Jos Buttler (wk), 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Liam Plunkett
Sri Lanka have three frontline spinners on tour. There is a chance each of them will feature in this match, which means a seamer may miss out. Nuwan Kulasekara appears likeliest to exit the side.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Chamara Kapugedara, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Sachithra Senanayake, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Jeffrey Vandersay
Pitch and conditions
Both teams expected the pitch to play slow – as it did for England during their match against Afghanistan. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will take much turn, though. The weather is not expected to impede play.
Stats and trivia
- Joe Root is the highest tournament run-scorer of the batsmen who have only played in the Super 10s, hitting 143 runs at a strike rate of 162.50.
- Thisara Perera’s highest T20I score remains the 49 off 25 he hit against England at the Oval in 2014.
- England’s last meeting with Sri Lanka at the World T20 was also their sole highlight of a disappointing campaign. On a memorable evening in Chittagong, Alex Hales toppled the eventual champions with a brilliant 116 not out from 64 balls. His onslaught secured a six-wicket victory and remains England’s only T20I hundred.
- Sri Lanka’s sole WT20 victory in three previous meeting with England came on home soil in 2012, a 19-run win in Pallekele where the absent Malinga took 5 for 31, his best figures in T20Is.
“Being from England and facing completely different conditions for the majority of your career, you’ve got to work pitches out pretty quickly and be quite smart. The guys who have experience of playing in India have really got to try and work that out and communicate to the rest of the guys.”
Joe Root on sizing up Indian pitches, especially when setting a total
“In T20 formats it’s always better to chase. When you’re batting first you don’t have a target in your mind, but you do when you’re chasing. You realise first six overs how you need to bat. Chasing is an advantage as far as I’m concerned.”
Sri Lanka vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal sets out his preference for batting second
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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