England v Sri Lanka, World T20 2016, Group 1, Delhi March 26, 2016

Defiant Mathews falls short as England reach semis


England 171 for 4 (Buttler 66*, Roy 42) beat Sri Lanka 161 for 8 (Mathews 73*, Jordan 4-28) by 10 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jos Buttler's unbeaten 66 set England up for victory and a place in the semi-finals © AFP

No country has ever successfully defended a World Twenty20 title so Sri Lanka are hardly alone in their mortification, but they crashed out in heartbreaking fashion in Delhi when they crumbled to a 10-run defeat against England in one of the most memorable games of the tournament.

Angelo Mathews is a Sri Lanka captain in challenging times, but his refusal to wilt reached heroic proportions. From the disarray of 15 for 4 in three overs, a target of 172 a world away, and with his first contribution to run out his batting partner, Lahiru Thirimanne, he summoned a muscular show of defiance, refusing to yield to the cruellest of hamstring injuries.

Mathews finished with 73 not out from 53 balls to show for his pain, his faith that he could turn the game only silenced by two excellent death overs from Chris Jordan and, ultimately, Ben Stokes, whose final onslaught of yorkers peppered the boots of an injured man and represented one of his most cool-headed overs in an England shirt.

So England qualified along with West Indies from Group 1, leaving India and Australia to fight out who will join New Zealand from Group 2. South Africa's chances of progressing to the last four were also ended by England's nerve-jangling victory, turning their final group game against Sri Lanka into a dead rubber.

Mathews began the resurrection by sharing a stand of 80 in 10 overs with Chamara Kapugedera, but by the time his half-century had slashed the requirement to 61 from five overs he was limping heavily with a tweaked hamstring that needed treatment from the physio.

It called for desperate measures. Sri Lanka's spurt had begun with 21 off an over from Adil Rashid. Now Sri Lanka demolished Moeen for 21 more. In those two overs, Mathews cleared the boundary four of the six occasions. England's four overs of spin cost 63 runs. They had anticipated rich pickings in Delhi, but it has not turned out that way.

Kapugedera skied Liam Plunkett to Stokes, falling over at deep midwicket, Thisara Perera flared briefly before perishing at mid-off. A match that had been nip and tuck throughout edged towards England when Root dived high to his left at mid-off to enable Jordan to silence Dasun Shanaka with Sri Lanka needing 17 from nine. Jordan also bowled Herath - finishing with 4 for 28, his best figures in T20 cricket.

That left Stokes to defend 15 from the last over - with Mathews on strike and rain beginning to fall. Mathews, grimacing, might have been run out second ball but Willey's throw was wide. He limped another two, Rashid getting a finger end on a chance at short fine leg. Stokes ended the uncertainty in emphatic fashion.

England will calculate that they produced their most complete display of the tournament when it was most needed. The No Fear mantra which has been a vital part of their development was tempered by an intelligent assessment of batting conditions and a surface that had been watered more heavily than against Afghanistan to hold it together gave England's pace quartet some heart. But thanks to Mathews they ran it mightily close.

If anything, England were slightly too cautious around midway, but, Jos Buttler-fuelled, they escaped to 171 for 4 - Buttler's unbeaten 66 from 37 balls giving them perhaps 10 more than they might have expected.

Sri Lanka's disarray against aggressive England new-ball bowling was spectacular. Tillakaratne Dilshan holed out to deep square leg from David Willey's third ball. Dinesh Chandimal flashed at Jordan's second ball and edged behind, Milinda Siriwardana stepped regally away to the leg side in Willey's next over but failed to clear extra cover and, next ball - Mathews' first - Sri Lanka's captain sent back Thirimanne, but Stokes hunted down his quarry from mid-off.

"We will have to be better at adapting," Eoin Morgan had warned when he lost the toss. England's batsmen had been headstrong against Afghanistan, recovering to make 142 for 7. This time the deliberation was evident. Jason Roy made 42 from 39 balls, an innings characterised by slicker foot movement against the spinners and a sharper mind than he has often exhibited. But only when Buttler took charge in the final overs could England envisage a winning total.

With five overs left, England were still only 99 for 3, but 72 spilled from the final quarter. Buttler switched focus from clever deflections to uninhibited cleaves. For Sri Lanka, there was no Lasith Malinga, death bowler extraordinaire, and it showed.

Mathews' resources were more evident at the top of the England innings than at the death. England's quiescence against spin made it logical for Mathews to attack them in this fashion from the outset.

Rangana Herath's pot belly is now so evident, at 38, that he might have been smuggling a Sri Lankan drum into the stadium, but he is a canny soul. He rarely opens the bowling, but he came on for the second over. His first ball gripped and almost bowled Alex Hales, his fourth had him lbw on the sweep, out without scoring.

With better luck, his legspin partner, Jeffrey Vandersay might have picked up Root with a googly in his first over - England's third. But Root and Roy held their nerve and by halfway England had clawed their way to 65 for 1. Vandersay removed both. Neither ball was among the best he bowled, but there is not a legspinner alive who has not taken a wicket with a long hop or two.

There was more for England to contend with, too, in the craft of Dushmantha Chameera whose mix of cutters at various paces also proved hard to come to terms with. When Herath was gravely picked off in his last over for six singles - England playing him with deference to the end - there were only five overs to change the tempo.

Buttler, promoted to No. 4, did just that. England were helped by Perera's first over, which went for 18. Mathews immediately pulled him from the attack, only for Shanaka - given the 18th over in his first bowl of the tournament - also to prove expensive, conceding the biggest six so far, a full-blooded 97m-blow over long-on by Buttler. Mathews had played a weak hand well, but by the time Perera found his yorkers in the last over, England had a total to defend.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • paul on March 29, 2016, 4:43 GMT

    @JRP100 LOL it's hilarious how salty some people get when England play well. Whether it's the excuses they make for why we win, or the way they try to undermine England players. Fact is Anderson is an England Test great. NO ONE'S ever claimed he's as good as a Marshall, McGrath,Ambrose or Imran but hey don't let that get in the way of a lie . Another fact is, that he along with Steyn has been the most consistent Test bowler in the world for about 7 years. As for Bell being rated by fans etc as being one of the best in Tests LOL, LIE, you must have missed all the years fans & media questioning his place, he's been a good Test batsman no more no less. Also I've never read anyone suggest Hales as a poss ODi great, T20 yes has he's already been ranked No.1 in the world. Buttler has the potential to be a great ODi batsman with him being only 25, you must be seriously one eyed not to see that. Fact is England already won WT20 in '10, ranked No.1 till the next one, bet it hurt then as well.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 28, 2016, 15:54 GMT

    @jg2704: Naturally, my assumption was India get the final, and while they can't guarantee it, in the event that they do, they may consider it wise to plan ahead (by manufacturing a pitch for the other match, to try and get the opposition they want).

    I would've thought if Ind wanted to face England, they'd actually prepare a pitch for fast bowlers, if possible in Delhi. It would assist Eng's fast bowlers, and force New Zealand to disband their spin attack, to pick Boult and Southee, who haven't played yet. I suppose my idea was more bowler-oriented, while yours was more batsman-oriented. Pros and cons for both, I suppose.

    Yeah, that order is probably right, though with Ind and NZ in 1st and 2nd place, that's 1 winner and 1 runners-up :) I wonder which is the tighter S-F though. One is definitely more star-studded/eye-catching. I think Eng got it 'easy' by facing NZ than the potential and pressure facing Ind brings. NZ deserve their luck and probably prefer Eng than the West Indies.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 28, 2016, 15:09 GMT

    In any case, Sri Lanka used spin early, and got Hales out cheaply and quickly. Herath and Vandersay worked a treat early on (Herath with a wicket-maiden), and with Mathews and Chameera, they restricted the run-rate for a long period of time. Part of the reason was due to the heavy number of dot balls in the Roy-Root partnership that went to the 10th over. Root faced 24 balls, which had 11 dots. Roy faced 39 balls and played out 19 dots. The partnership was very boundary-reliant and that essentially maintained the run rate of about 6 an over, which isn't a good strategy. I thought Roy was in the team to get fast starts. That's been the constant noise about him, but if 42 from 39 is so acceptable, why can't Ali or Vince open instead? It's very ordinary to hit 3 fours and 2 sixes, yet only score 42 from 39, with so much batting depth in the team. Very Dwayne Smith-like in terms of a high dot ball count and heavily reliance on boundaries. Any excuse to include him in the eleven. P2 of 7.

  • John on March 28, 2016, 14:06 GMT

    @DSA - Re pitch they prepare for the NZ semi - not sure. My initial thoughts were that India would not have a preference for the final - obviously IF they get there. While NZ have been the best side in the tourn so far , Eng have also showed capabilities. They chased down 230 probably more comfortably than they defended 171 in the end and all teams have it within them to do something special. Also there seems to be no major weaknesses in the NZ side so I'm not sure they can prepare a pitch for Eng. So I guess if they particularly prefer to face Eng in the final they'd basically have to prepare a fairly flat track. If Eng beat NZ then preparing a turner would hugely favour India (IF they come through) in the final as Eng are loathed to pick players based on suitability and will always pick just 2 spinners. Funnily enough I feel that there would be a greater likelihood of the final being between the 2 group runners up than the 2 winners. I make Ind favourites , followed by NZ, Eng , WI

  • manjula on March 28, 2016, 13:24 GMT

    SL failed due to: wrong batting order; Chandimal is great but not at top; Still cannot understand why Danushka wasn't in; Perera cannot bowl or bat; Could have tried him at opening spot to check. Sorry Perera has to go. He is not contributing. Sanath Jayasuriya mentioned this couple of years ago. Thiri should have batted at top.

  • James on March 28, 2016, 6:50 GMT

    SL fans never understand the Legend of Malingas. He is the best t20 bowler ever played and best t20 player SL ever had. Now he proves his introductions of Vandersay, Kapugedara, Shanka, discarded Thisara are very worth. Make him to the selection board while kicking out overated Sangakkara

  • vimarchagan on March 28, 2016, 4:00 GMT

    Mathews faked hamstring injury. If SL had won, he would have been hailed as hero/world number #1 and what not. Since they had lost, luckily it can be used as an excuse as well.

    I love this new england outfit. I would have loved to see Aus/Eng finals but it may not happen now. Hope, the next best of Eng/Ind happens.

  • chandana on March 28, 2016, 3:45 GMT

    Please bring in Dhanushka G & Vithangae and give both of them a full series. Two players too good to be left out..

  • Dilum on March 28, 2016, 2:43 GMT

    A good game of cricket and better team won. As a fan didn't feel bad for this loss. As We put on a good fight. Specially Angi too bad you couldn't finish things. But He made huge mistakes as a captain. He did not plan his bowlers well. Who would give a Young bowler who haven't bowl 10 international overs to ball at death. Should have kept more overs chipping in at middle overs from spinners(Dilshan & Milinda). Then again why did we change our batting order (again?). Should have go with the same line up. With Thiri at 3 and Kapu at 4. Milinda had never played at top before as he has no clue of how to play swing. Kapu has proved so many times that he can handle pressure. He was able to build a partnership when we loose early wickets. It's sad that some have not get that yet. If it wasn't for that partnership we would have done for less than 100 runs.

  • Jason on March 28, 2016, 0:34 GMT

    Many guys are stating that loss of 3 major players wouldn't take Sri Lanka to a transition stage. For example, imagine Dhoni and Virat Kohli not in the team, India will not be able to win any games. V.Kohli's early exit against NZ was the reason that Indian batting slashed like the pack of cards.

    Entire Sri Lankan line up has been changed and not just 3 almost 6 players are not playing.

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