England, Lanka in crucial tie

England, Lanka in crucial tie

Preview : Morgan's men start favourites against struggling islanders

England, Lanka in crucial tie

 The race to the semifinals has gathered steam. A defeat can simply stop a team in its track. Both England and Sri Lanka will be going all out against each other to avoid this fate in Group 1 match of Super 10 in World Twenty20 here on Saturday.

A win would strengthen the semifinal chances of England, who mustered a shambolic 15-run victory over minnows Afghanistan on Feroz Shah Kotla surface here on Wednesday. Defending champions Sri Lanka, on the other hand, would be playing their third match in the tournament, but after a gap of six days. With one win and loss, they have a low run rate and need to post victories over both England and South Africa to be assured of last four stage.

The pitch here could play a crucial role. England’s troubles against spin are well documented and they somehow managed to scrape past the spirited Afghans. They also underused their spinners and preferred to depend more on their seam bowlers.  The anticipated debut of left-arm spinner Liam Dawson was put on hold and his continued exclusion now won’t be surprising.

England are likely to persist with off-spinner Moeen Ali, who had revived their innings with the bat against Afghanistan, and leg-spinner Adil Rashid with Joe Root filling in the spot for the third spinner, if need be. David Willey, who extracted some bounce during his figures of 2-23, would head the seamers that include Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan.

Having already played one match, England have got the taste of the conditions and that should put them in good stead.  However, they would be hoping their opening batsman Alex Hales to pass the fitness test and expect Root to be at his devastating best that saw England chase a record total against South Africa. Captain Eoin Morgan’s form has been a cause of worry and it was Moeen and Willey who took them to safety against Afghanistan. However, in Sri Lanka they would face wily opponents and hold a 2-4 record against them in T20.

Sri Lanka, in five previous editions, have finished runners-up on two occasions in 2009 and 2012 and won the tournament in 2014 and made the semifinals in 2010.  On a Kotla track, they would have a quality spin-oriented attack led by the experienced Rangana Herath and leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersa, who came in as replacement for the injured Lasith Malinga. Malinga’s absence is sorely felt by the team in transition, and though it has Nuwan Kulasekara and Dushmantha Chameera as new ball pair, the effect is not the same. Captain Angelo Mathews has the potential to create impact with both bat and ball and would need to lead from the front.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is in the twilight of his career, has been in good form and would need support from Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedra. However, it is the middle-order that lacks depth and experience. Sri Lanka, certainly, need to get their act together against England who would be spurred by the prospect of a semifinal berth.