Wounded Sri Lanka face a massive English wall in front of them

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31 Oct 2021 | 01:45 PM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

Wounded Sri Lanka face a massive English wall in front of them

Sri Lanka nearly came back in stunning fashion against South Africa but the key word being nearly

On paper, it should be yet another one-sided contest for England, who have rampaged past all their opponents thus far in the competition. West Indies, who are the defending champions were supposed to be a tough opener for the Three Lions but what transpired in Dubai only made the 2019 ODI World Cup champions much stronger. 

Bangladesh tried their luck in the second encounter but were brutally overpowered by some monstrous hitting from Jason Roy. And when the whole world suggested that Australia would be England’s first obstacle, the Three Lions just pushed them aside like they were club-level cricketers. There is a common theme though in their wins: they have chased in all the clashes. 

But what makes it extremely interesting is how they have gone about their business in their run-chases. 70 balls, 35 balls and 50 balls, the Three Lions have absolutely gone bonkers in their wins, all spearheaded by the powerful batting order at their disposal. On the other hand, there is Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka have shown promise, incredible one at it but have always been rattled when it comes to executing it. Against Australia, they showed great fight early on before throwing the game away with poor plans in the second half. On Saturday (30 October), they somehow scrambled their own mind with some terrible batting in the middle-phase against South Africa.

Now for the Islanders to win, they will need everything to be perfect – planning, execution and additionally, would also need the power of luck. 

Does England have any weakness?

Till this point in the competition, there are two sides who have been unbeaten – England and Pakistan. While Pakistan have had scratchy finishes and some poor bowling performances, the Three Lions have had none of that. In fact, they have more answers than questions that sides have thrown at them. Their bowling in the powerplay has been the best in the competition and so has been their batting. 

They have the second-best strike-rate in the powerplay phase, only behind Afghanistan but unlike the Asian side, they have faced two of their toughest competitors already in the T20 World Cup. What will come harrowing for Sri Lanka, is that the Three Lions have the best record against spin in the competition. 

Sri Lanka, as a bowling attack depend a lot on the success of Wanindu Hasaranga and Mahesh Theekshana. But with England scoring at a strike-rate of 142.4, averaging 30.2 runs/wicket, even the dire prospect of Hasaranga running through the English batting would be a daunting task. So where should Sri Lanka attack?

The Islanders might have to borrow for a game plan from India, who are the only side who have defeated England albeit it being a warm-up game. Quick wickets in the powerplay, batting aggressively in the powerplay and taking on the English spinners might be something that Sri Lanka should look at doing. 

Sri Lanka will need the best of Charith Asalanka

Even though they have had Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga make scores, a lot of Sri Lanka’s batting hopes lie on the shoulders of Charith Asalanka. In four games this competition, Asalanka has scored 142 runs, at an astonishing average of 47.33, it is how he goes about his scoring that makes him impressive. The southpaw’s runs have come at a strike-rate of 142, which is the second-best in the Sri Lankan batting unit (min 100 runs), with only Bhanuka Rajapaksa batting at a better strike rate. 

Since the start of 2021, only Nissanka and Perera have scored more runs than the southpaw for the national team, with 206 runs, at a strike-rate of 124.8. Interestingly, while he has had almost similar strike-rates against pace and spin, in this year’s competition, the left-handed has likened the spinners. With Mark Wood likely to return for the clash, it would be interesting to see how Asalanka reacts against raw pace, with his strike-rate only reading a low 113.73. 

Will Wanindu Hasaranga be a worry for England?

In six games, including the qualifiers, Wanindu Hasaranga has been Sri Lanka’s top bowler, with 11 scalps in the competition, conceding runs at 5.3 RPO and averaging a meagre 10.5 with the ball. Only five of the wickets though have come in the Super 12s, with a hattrick against South Africa on Saturday (30 October). He will definitely walk into this encounter brimming with confidence but the question remains, will he be a worry for the English batters?

Against England, since 2019, the leg-spinner has played only three contests, where he has picked two wickets, in 11 overs of bowling. His average against England, is his second worst against an opponent (min three games), with only Australia batting him better than the Three Lions, averaging 37. 

The Three Lions, who in another format (Tests) have suffered at the hands of spinners, have excelled against the tweakers in the shortest format. Since 2019, England have the best record against spin, with 2250 runs, striking at 146.7, averaging 30 runs/wicket, with a boundary every 5.7th delivery. That’s where Hasaranga might be a double-edged sword for Sri Lanka. 

Probable XIs


Barring Mark Wood’s return, there will be no positions available for others in the playing XI of this England setup. If Wood doesn’t return, England won’t alter their playing XI, with the same playing XI from their first three clashes in the competition.

Predicted XI: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (c), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills

Sri Lanka

For Sri Lanka, there are multiple issues in the setup, including the form of their opening pair, who have scored just 59 runs together, averaging 9.8, striking at 92. Now it might be too early to call a shot there, Avishka Fernando’s form certainly might warrant a swap in the setup. It would be interesting to see if Sri Lanka decide to go with Dinesh Chandimal or Dhananjaya de Silva.

Predicted XI: Kusal Perera (wk), Pathum Nissanka, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara

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England vs Sri LankaICC World Twenty20, 2021Sri LankaEnglandJos ButtlerCharith AsalankaWanindu Hasaranga

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