England defeated Sri Lanka by a margin of four wickets to advance to the T20 World Cup semifinals, eliminating Australia in the process. Even though a target of 142 appeared to be comfortably within reach after openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales produced 75 for the first wicket in just eight overs, the group 1 match’s decisive chase was anxiety-inducing. But six wickets fell in the space of 65 deliveries due to unforced errors, adding only 54. These dismissals were evenly divided among the trio of Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya de Silva, and Lahiru Kumara, and for a brief while, it appeared as though an upset was definitely in the cards.
Ben Stokes, however, as usual, helped England cross the finish line with 42 from 36, only two of which were fours. Chris Woakes’ cut for four with two balls remaining ultimately gave England the victory. After Dawid Malan suffered a groyne injury while fielding, Stokes was inserted at No. 3. Under extreme pressure, Stokes remained composed as usual.
It was far closer than it should have been because England rallied to hold Sri Lanka to a modest score after opener Pathum Nissanka gave them a quick start with 67 off just 45. Australia will reflect on what might have been now that they are no longer the reigning champions after having missed the chance to beat England’s net run rate with their own modest victory over Afghanistan on Friday.
There wasn’t much around Nissanka except for his blitz, which reduced Sri Lanka to 65 for 1 after seven overs thanks to England’s concerted onslaught of cutters and slower deliveries that were responding effectively to the SCG’s worn out surface. Adil Rashid led the response with 1 for 16 from his four overs, but Mark Wood had the more impressive stats with 3 for 26, two of them coming in the 20th over, which also included a run out. Sri Lanka eventually reached 141 for 8, the lowest total ever recorded as the first score at this venue in the competition. Also, England became the first team to triumph at the SCG when chasing.
There was always going to be room for Stokes, whatever the merits of the pre-tournament debates about whether or not he belongs in England’s finest T20 team. As close to a revelation as you can get for a multidimensional player who is admired all over the world is his bowling, and once again he opened up, finishing with 1 for 24 from three overs. But the major question remained in batting, and it wasn’t until England was struggling in Sydney that people began to see how important he is. The way he approached the situation, taking into account the physical demands of the field and the psychological strain of having to save the day once more, served as a reminder of his immeasurable significance to England even though his best position is as an opener. He only hit two fours, and most of his runs were scored by running because his left knee continued to bother him. It doesn’t seem to matter to him or his teammates that this was only his third score of 40 or more in 35 innings and that he has failed to reach a fifty in T20Is. There is no guarantee that Stokes will play the first-drop position in the semifinal if Malan’s injury is as serious as anticipated. Instead, a replacement batsman will have to be brought in. There is no question that England’s finest XI is one with him in it, regardless of the position he plays.
Rashid dulls amazing class
There is no guarantee that Stokes will play the first-drop position in the semifinal if Malan’s injury is as serious as anticipated. Instead, a replacement batsman will have to be brought in. There is no question that England’s finest XI is one with him in it, regardless of the position he plays. Here, he married both teams, dismissing Nissanka and stopped Sri Lanka in their tracks (he did not allow a boundary in his four overs). Things would have turned out very differently if he had failed at either assignment. He currently shares the record for most T20I wickets by an Englishman with Chris Jordan with 90.
Pace of change
This match rewarded moving down a few gears in a competition where those topping the speed gun had dominated the news. On this well-used surface, the spinners were always going to excel, but the quicks joined in with their own variations. By the time England’s assault realised this, pace-off deliveries were moving at 4.87 runs per over and pace-on deliveries were clocking in at 8.46. The most notable instance of this in the second innings was when Lahiru Kumara, a speedster for Sri Lanka, bowled six balls in the 18th over that were almost entirely reserved and into the pitch, yielding just two runs and taking the wicket of Sam Curran, leaving England needing more than a run per ball for the final two overs.
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