England’s demolition squad has Sri Lanka in its sights


There is something about Eoin Morgan’s England, which is becoming the cynosure of all eyes, and the envy of every team competing at the ICC T20 World Cup here.

The demolition squad has already demoralised and dismissed the likes of defending champions West Indies, hammered Bangladesh and humiliated Australia, and they would be going into their fourth Group 1 ‘Super 12’ games — against Sri Lanka later on Monday — riding on the momentum of those wins and the confidence that Jos Buttler will continue to breathe fire with his strokes.

While Jason Roy starred with the bat in the win over Bangladesh, his half-century was overshadowed by an extraordinary 32-ball unbeaten 71-run knock by his opening partner Jos Buttler against Australia, whose strike rate touched 222 as he smashed five massive sixes and an equal number of boundaries to nail Aaron Finch’s side.

With Buttler in imperious form, and England’s bowling attack looking in good shape, it will take an impressive performance to stop them. But Sri Lanka, the former T20 World champions, do have the calibre — and the pedigree — to trouble the group leaders.

Wanindu Hasaranga took a hat-trick in the loss to South Africa on October 30, and has the quality to trouble England. The entire Sri Lankan outfit is also much improved from the squad that were whitewashed 3-0 by England in June this year, in a series which led to three of the Island’s top cricketers being banned for a year for breaching Covid-19 protocols.

Sri Lanka know they need a win too, with only one more game against West Indies to come, and South Africa and Australia to overhaul if they want to snatch a qualification spot for the semifinals.

Both teams are expected to be unchanged for the fixture. Sri Lanka’s combination of top-class spin and express pace has been an impressive feature so far, while England’s dominance in their three fixtures so far has allowed them to absorb the injury issues of Mark Wood.

Talking about Buttler’s exploits, Liam Livingstone said, “I’ve said it all along: he’s the best hitter of a white ball in the world, and when he gets on a roll like that (against Australia), there’s no stopping him. That was pretty much the perfect innings, a clinic of white-ball power hitting. It was a pleasure to just sit there and watch a genius at work.”

Sri Lanka coach Mahela Jayawardene too was all praise for Buttler, saying, “He’s probably one of the best players through the off side as well — he opens himself up and the hands come through. He’s a good player of spin: he has the reverse-sweep, he comes down and hits — we saw the way he controlled (Adam) Zampa (and how) he never let him settle into that line and length.”

Probable England XI: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (captain), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills.

Probable Sri Lanka XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dasun Shanaka (captain), Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara.