England proved their class once again to overcome a resilient Sri Lanka in Sharjah in another fantastic game in this T20 World Cup. This victory was quite simply down to the sheer brilliance of Jos Buttler, who tonight became the first Englishman to score an International century in all three formats.
Sri Lanka proved to be a real challenge for the ODI World Champions, who are an ever improving side under coach Mickey Arthur. They are a young side but have made significant strides in the last few months, it was their inexperience that possibly caused them to fall short.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bowl first to stick with the tournament trend of chasing teams winning. They know the tricky conditions in Sharjah having played two games there previously and they had England on the ropes early at 35-3 after 5.2 overs. World number two bowler Wanindu Hasaranga took two of those wickets and is currently the leading wicket-taker.
Captain Morgan arrived at the crease and alongside Jos Buttler began the rebuild. Match winner from the previous game Buttler, proved why he’s so one of the greatest to play the T20 game as he took down specific bowlers, making the most of his ideal ‘match-ups’. He hit six sixes and six fours on the way to his first international T20 century. He stood head and shoulders above his teammates and looked as if he was batting on a different pitch.
Eoin Morgan, on the day he became the most successful captain in men’s T20 internationals, remained with him until the 19th over, accelerating from nine runs off his first 20 balls to 21 runs off his next 10 balls.
The Sri Lankan bowling figures told the whole story, their spinners controlled the innings well while there was carnage amongst the seamers. Chameera, Kumara and Shanaka all went at over ten runs an over and bowled exactly half the innings.
Sitting on 95 not out with only a ball to go, Jos Buttler slammed a six to reach his hundred. It was off only 67 balls as he’s at his scintillating best in this tournament.
With the small boundaries for international standards at the ground, there was no reason Sri Lanka couldn’t chase the ‘par’ score.
England started strongly with a run out and a double strike from Adil Rashid to leave Sri Lanka at 34-3. This worsened to 76-5 after wickets from seamers Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes.
The game seemed over at this stage and England looked set to stroll to yet another easy win this tournament. Undoubtedly Sri Lankan MVP on the day and in the tournament as a whole, Hasaranga, had other ideas. He skilfully made his way to 34 from 21 balls. And the equation was a seemingly manageable 51 from 30 balls.
The balance then shifted further in their favour as England bowler Tymal Mills pulled up in the middle of the over with a quad injury which left him unable to bowl again. He would normally cover the death overs of the innings which had to be bowled by Mooen Ali and Liam Livingstone, the weaker death options in the squad.
As has so often been the case over the last few years, England found a way to edge the difficult moments, this time their fielding was the difference. Hasaranga was dismissed by a stunning Jason Roy effort on the boundary as he dived and passed the ball to teammate Sam Billings before touching the rope. Saving six runs and getting the wicket. Jos Buttler then continued his magnificent day by collecting the ball and throwing down the stumps to run opposition captain Shanaka out.
The game ended in the penultimate over as Sri Lanka were bowled out and England completed their victory by 26 runs. A margin that underplays the scare that Sri Lanka gave England. They also became the first team to secure their place in the knockout stage of the tournament.
England 163-4 20 overs – Buttler 101* Hasaranga 3-21
Sri Lanka 137 19 overs – Hasaranga 34
Concrete’s Batter of the match- Jos Buttler
Concrete’s Bowler of the match – Wanindu Hasaranga