Despite a valiant effort from Angelo Mathews, England scampered to a 10-run win over Sri Lanka and booked their place in the semis of the World Cup T20. Earlier, Jos Buttler's breathtaking knock of 66 runs helped England post a daunting total of 171 runs at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi.
Chasing a daunting target of 172 on a challenging wicket, Sri Lanka got off to a disastrous start. They lost four wickets in the opening three overs, as David Willey and Chris Jordan ran through the top order. The match looked over at this point, but like Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler during England's innings, Angelo Mathews and Chamara Kapugedera pulled their team out of the trenches, nearly.
The duo played with a lot of caution initially, before Mathews went blitzkrieg. The Sri Lankan captain went after Adil Rashid, and in the 12th over, he and Kapugedera hit him for three sixes and got 21 runs off the over. The pair put on 80 runs in just 10 overs, and put Sri Lanka right back into the game.
The later was dismissed in the next over, when another attempted slog of his went high up in the air and was caught at deep midwicket by Ben Stokes, off Liam Plunkett. But that did not slow down Mathews' juggernaut, as the 28-year-old kept crossing the fence for fun.
In the 16th over, Moeen Ali faced his full brunt as Mathews, and then Thisara Perera, hit him for three sixes. The southpaw was ably supporting his captain from the other end, and made sure he eased out the pressure on him.
From 15/4 in 3 overs, Sri Lanka were 137/5 in the 17th over, and needed just 35 runs off 21 balls. However, just when it seemed like they were cruising to an unlikely win, Perera held out at mid-off, while trying to hit Willey over the top.
But Dasun Shanaka came to the crease, and his quickfire knock of 15 runs edged Sri Lanka closer to the target, before he was dismissed by a brilliant catch by Joe Root. Sri Lanka needed 15 runs off the last over, and thankfully for them Mathews was on strike. However, Stokes kept it tight and conceded just four runs in his over. Mathews tried his best, but it just was not enough for his team.
England's win means both South Africa and the defending champions have been knocked out of the tournament, and we will witness the crowing of a new champion on April 3.
Earlier, a lot was at stake when the two captains walked out for the toss at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi. The equation was simple, if England won they were through, but if Sri Lanka won, then their next match against South Africa will prove to be the decider for the second qualification spot in the group.
Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bowl first on a track which was expected to keep low and assist the spinners. Nuwan Kulasekara was replaced by Dasun Shanaka, while for England, Alex Hales recovered from his stiff back to come into the side in place of James Vince.
The Lions made a fine start to the game as they removed Hales with just four runs on the board. Angelo Mathews was not subtle about his game plan, as he introduced spinners from the word go. Rangana Herath removed Hales after a fantastic opening over, and that proved to be a big setback for England.
Joe Root and Jason Roy worked on rebuilding the innings, and did so with a cautious approach. The Sri Lankan bowlers kept a tight leash on the proceedings and by the end of the 10th over England were 65/1. Jeffrey Vandersay removed Joe Root in the first ball of the next over, as the batsman picked up Lahiru Thirimanne at the midwicket boundary, while trying to clear the ropes from a short delivery.
Jason Roy followed him soon enough, eight short of his half-century, as Vandersay trapped him in front of the wicket, and all of a sudden England were tottering at 99/3 with just five overs remaining. They were struggling to find any momentum, and that is when Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler took over.
It was the former who started the onslaught as he hit Thisara Perera for a four and a six in two consecutive deliveries, before Buttler reaped into Dushmantha Chameera in the next over. The duo changed the complexion of the match with astounding power-hitting, as England picked up 72 runs in the last 30 deliveries.
Morgan ran himself out in the last over, but Ben Stokes ended the innings with a massive six, and helped his team post a daunting total of 171/4 on what was a fairly difficult surface to bat on. Buttler finished with 66 runs, with the help of eight boundaries and two sixes.
AB de Villiers or Virat Kohli - who will score more runs?
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