Coming into the game after a heartbreaking first loss, Stuart Broad's team is the underdog as it faces T20's top-ranked side
To say England has endured a bleak winter is understating things. In 20 games across all formats, it has managed just four wins, racking up 16 losses. What’s worse, its history against Sri Lanka in this format is hardly encouraging, with its only win against this opponent in four attempts coming at the World T20 in 2010 in St Lucia.
Add to the mix the fact that Sri Lanka is currently the team ranked No. 1 in the format, while England is seven spots below, just above Ireland, and you have a contest where one team goes into the game overwhelming underdogs.
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal was either unaware of this background, or plain uninterested, when he stuck to the line that his team was not underestimating any opposition, this after flattening the Netherlands for only 39.
“England are a good T20 side and we have special game plans for them. We never underestimate England,” said Chandimal. “They have quality T20 specialists like Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales, and we will have to have specific plans against them. But, we do have something up our sleeve.”
When asked if he thought his team could replicate the kind of dream bowling performance that shot the Netherlands out for only 39, he allowed himself a cheeky grin. “We have been bowling well, sticking to our strengths when it comes to bowling,” began Chandimal. “Getting bowled out for 39, it happens sometimes, not all the time, in cricket. But, who knows, if we stick to our strengths, it can happen in the next game also.”
He acknowledged that his team was in kissing distance of sealing a spot in the final four. Major credit for that went to the momentum generated by winning early, he said. “To win the first match (against South Africa) was important for our team. It is that momentum we took to the second match, against Netherlands,” he said. “All the players performed very well in the opening contest and 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 semifinals, but we are looking to win both.”
If England was gutted at losing to New Zealand with only 5.2 overs being possible in a big chase, it was doing its best to put that setback behind it and focus on what it needed to do to keep its hopes alive in the tournament. “Obviously we were very unfortunate with the way we lost the other day, there was a long way to go in that game. Chasing 170-odd is tough in any T20 game. They had a good start but we would have backed ourselves to defend it,” said Ravi Bopara. “The belief is still high in this team, we've done a lot of good things in the last few games. Although we haven't won a lot of games the boys are getting better at their skills.”
England allrounder Bopara insisted that his team had picked up some valuable pointers from its first game, even if it was on the field for only 5.2 overs. “Playing in those conditions the other night, we learned a lot of things as well,” said Bopara. “We initially thought the wickets would be low and slow but it was going through well with a bit of bounce and I think that suits us.”
While England’s style of play is certainly more suited to the skiddy Chittagong pitches than the slower turners on offer in Mirpur, England knew that the time to be thinking about what might work and what might not was well behind it. “It is a must-win game for us. I don't think we know the mathematical side of it – we have to win,” said Bopara. “Winning against Sri Lanka would be a big thing for us, a big confidence boost and that's how we're looking at it.”
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Sachitra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Seekkuge Prasanna.
England: Stuart Broad (capt), Michael Lumb, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernback, James Tredwell, Stephen Parry, Craig Kieswetter.