England v Sri Lanka, World T20 2016, Group 1, Delhi March 25, 2016

Sri Lanka bank on spinners against England

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Sri Lanka's batting has been brittle, and they are missing their finisher with the ball, but T20 wits, they hope, will be enough to put them into the semi-final. First up in their Delhi double-header is England - a team they have sometimes outsmarted before.

There is evidence that this England side is savvier than its predecessors. They have hired experts to advise them on spin, and are led by one of the more unorthodox England captains. But, Sri Lanka are hoping they are savvier still. Since the loss to West Indies on Sunday, Sri Lanka have spent their break training and introspecting, but also plotting, vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal said.

"We have six days' rest since the last match," he said. "Two of those days were total rest - without training. That was for players to concentrate on their own games - to watch videos of them batting well, and to analyse where they went wrong. In those days, we also made a lot of plans about how to challenge England. There will be a few small changes. Part of the reason for those changes is also to surprise them."

If Sri Lanka have something up their sleeve, there is a chance the plan involves the recently-shortened one belonging to Sachithra Senanayake. Sri Lanka's offspinners has been effective against England in limited-overs matches before, and Senanayake has been good against them in particular - in one-day cricket at least. He has taken 14 England scalps at an average of 14.57 in ODIs, and stands a strong chance of playing on Saturday, particularly with three left-handers in the England middle order.

In any case, Sri Lanka's plans are likely to feature spin, with Rangana Herath and legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay having bowled well in the tournament so far.

"Rangana can cause damage in the next two games against England and South Africa," Chandimal said. "We all know they are struggling against the spinners. We've got Vandersay, who is a surprise package, and Sachithra as well. If those bowlers do their best, we have a good chance. We all expect a lot from Rangana, but he knows how to handle those pressure situations. I think he will have a huge role in the next two games."

Sachithra Senanayake has been effective against England in limited-overs and stands a chance of playing on Saturday © AFP

The spin threat may be magnified by a Feroz Shah Kotla surface that has so far played slow, though there has not been excessive turn yet. The pitch is not exactly what the Sri Lanka side encounter at home, but still presents challenges Sri Lanka may be more comfortable facing than England.

"Here, I think the pitch really helps us," Chandimal said. "England played the first two games in the Wankhede and we all know that's one of the best pitches India have got. In here, it's totally different. Wickets are slow. I think we'll have a good chance."

On the batting front, it is Sri Lanka's middle order that concerned Chandimal the most. Angelo Mathews continues to bat at No. 5, but is in much leaner form than England are used to seeing him in. The likes of Chamara Kapugedera and Milinda Siriwardana are also yet to make a major impact in the tournament.

"We're struggling with the batting - especially the middle order. It can happen when you come to big games like this. We don't have experienced guys in the middle. Guys are really working hard in practice. If our middle order clicks together, we'll have a good chance anyway.

"But, you can't say every time that it's our transition period. We've got some experienced guys, as well as youngsters. We have to put our hands up and perform for the side."

England had been the only side that defeated Sri Lanka during their run to the title in 2014, and yet, Chandimal felt this England side was better equipped than that one.

"They've got some good players, I think, especially compared to the past five or six years, when I think they weren't concerned about the T20 format. Now, they are thinking. They've got Root and Buttler - they are the key players. They are playing really well. We never underestimate any team. We'll have to play our brand of cricket."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • geeya on March 26, 2016, 14:20 GMT

    very good team selection, can beat sri lanka.

  • Saurabh Shankpal on March 26, 2016, 8:37 GMT

    Cmon Srilanka as our Neighbours we will always support you

  • Messa on March 26, 2016, 4:49 GMT

    Agree with @APPU. Chandimal should captain, but at the same time he should get advice from Dilshan, Herath and Mathews. Like Malinga did in 2014 world cup against NZ

  • GEBF on March 26, 2016, 4:32 GMT

    Best Wishes to Angelo and the rest of the Team. We are certain that you would perform to bring a smile to ALL Sri Lankans ! Good Luck - From : Benil Fernando & family Sydney Australia..

  • Jasonsl on March 26, 2016, 3:59 GMT

    I dont really understand why selectors are really dumb. Its obvious that Nuwan Kulasekara is aging and too expensive and he even dropped an easy catch in the previous match against West Indies. Herath is not bowling well either and they should consider replacing Nuwan Kulasekara with someone else and Herath with a spinner like Sachithra.

    Dilshan and Kapugedara would be better to open and to make the middle order a little bit more stronger they should bring Chandimal 1 down.

  • Cricinfouser on March 26, 2016, 2:00 GMT

    To win, in addition to playing the three spinners, Sri Lanka has to do one more thing, get Dinesh to captain the side instead of Mathews. Then Thisara Perera should bat at number 4 position. Then Lanka can win. Also Mathews should not bowl up front as he did with West Indies and bled 13 runs in one over. Lead from the front and for that Dinesh is the better person. If selectors persist with Mathews as captain then curtains for Lanka. Without the burden of captaincy Mathews will will produce th runs.

  • Dilmah82 on March 26, 2016, 1:08 GMT

    Not just middle but top also. Last game Chandimal almost ran himself out first ball, and eventually was runout. Number 3 has been a struggle too. Entire batting order needs a look at, and need to do what is best for team and most worrying for opposition that individual needs. Bowling need to drop Kulasekera and replace with Sachitra. Angelo will need to bowl more himself and use Chameera better. This game may need to use Dilshan and Malinda more with ball also especially if pitch is turning.

  • devaraaj on March 25, 2016, 21:20 GMT

    Cricket born in England. So today England will teach how to play cricket

  • indianlankacricfan on March 25, 2016, 20:44 GMT

    open with siriwardana please.

  • SL_Fan_5 on March 25, 2016, 20:14 GMT

    We got to bring Jayasuriya in. For me, he should play instead of Thirimanne or even Kapu. I see us going with Senanayake but is he really a frontline spinner these days. He can bat, maybe even better than some of our batsmen. Kapu we've backed you up so many times, it's now one never.

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