Can England disrupt Sri Lanka's mojo?
Match factsThursday, March 27, 2014
Start time 1930 local (1330 GMT)
A tense win sealed by Lasith Malinga, one merciless defeat of a weaker side, and significant contributions from various places in the XI; Sri Lanka's World T20 campaign so far bears the hallmarks of so many recent sprints to the knockout phase of a world event. In each of those tournaments, the result against England has prefigured their eventual destination. When they have won the England match, as they did in two World Cups, and two World T20s since 2007, they have played the final. If they defeat them again on Thursday, they will take a significant step towards the semi-finals.
England face a far bleaker reality. They had lost five of six T20s this year, before the rain ruined them against New Zealand. The bowling appears short on penetration, and in the warm-up against India, the batting appeared frail against high-quality spin. Before England can consider a place in the knockouts, they must first overcome inertia.
The key for England may be to sound a charge early in their innings, to force an inexperienced Sri Lanka captain to alter his bowling plans. If they prevent Angelo Mathews from delivering cheap overs with the new ball, or avoid being shackled by Nuwan Kulasekara's swing, they may have Malinga in the attack sooner than Sri Lanka prefer, which in turn creates an opportunity at the death. Ajantha Mendis has not been at his best in the tournament, despite a good haul against clueless Netherlands batsmen, and his overs may be another chance for England to reclaim the kind of fearless cricket that won them the 2010 title.
Sri Lanka will merely seek to keep their T20 machinery well-oiled and efficient. Though a strong start to the tournament might spark fears of complacency among other teams, overconfidence is not Sri Lanka's style. An unbeaten run of 14 matches in Bangladesh this year has exposed few real weaknesses in the team, but there are vulnerabilities in their game, which England are capable of exploiting.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWWWW
In the spotlight
Ajantha Mendis has lately been as much of a mystery for the selectors as he has been to opposition batsmen. His T20 record is excellent, and as the match against Netherlands proved, batsmen who have never faced him find him exceedingly difficult to decipher. But he is also prone to dramatic failure when there is little turn to be had, and against batsmen who have worked him out. Against South Africa, he travelled for 11 runs an over. Laudable returns against England will help shore up his place in the team, but with Rangana Herath in the dugout, an expensive outing may also seal his omission for the following matches.
As bright a prospect as his batting is attractive, Moeen Ali has not yet brought his best to international cricket, but the 36 against New Zealand revealed glimpses of his ability. Equally comfortable flicking languidly to leg as he is sending the ball to the straight fence, Moeen had recently excelled in spin-friendly conditions, on an England Lions tour to Sri Lanka. That experience may aid him against Sri Lanka's slow-bowling phalanx, but he will also do well to set the innings off apace against the seamers.
Sri Lanka have no cause to change their combination. Kusal Perera suffered a painful blow to the thumb against Netherlands, but that is not expected to affect his availability.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Ajantha Mendis
Ian Bell was absent from training on Wednesday due to an upset stomach, but he was unlikely to play in any case. England may consider bolstering their batting with Chris Woakes, or their spin bowling with Stephen Parry, at Jade Dernbach's expense.
England (probable) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Michael Lumb, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Jos Buttler, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Chris Jordan, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Jade Dernbach/ Chris Woakes/ Stephen Parry
Pitch and conditions
There has not been as much assistance for spinners as anticipated in Chittagong, and given the square has spent considerable time under covers in the 48 hours before the match, it appears that trend will continue. Further storms cannot be ruled out, so keep that D/L sheet handy.
Stats and trivia
- England have lost three T20s against Sri Lanka and won one - the 2010 World T20 semi-final
- Eoin Morgan needs six runs to score 1000 T20 runs - he would be the second England batsman to reach that milestone after Kevin Pietersen.
- Nuwan Kulasekara is the only seamer ranked among the top ten T20 bowlers
"Winning against Sri Lanka would be a big thing for us, a big confidence boost and that's how we're looking at it."
"In the second game we showed what our standard was. We know if we win one of our last two games we can make it to the semi-finals but we are looking forward to winning both."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here