Sri Lanka defied all the odds and came up with one of the biggest upsets of the World Cup by beating tournament favourites England in a nerve-racking encounter. After striking regularly with the ball, England stumbled in the run-chase and Lasith Malinga did well to pull things back for his side.
Angelo Mathews' return to form strengthens Sri Lankan middle-order
Just when Angelo Mathews’ most loyal fans were about to give up, the best Sri Lankan batsman sprung a fighting knock to rediscover his zone and zen. After a string of low scores, Mathews spot in the playing XI came under scrutiny, but he is easily the best batsman in the line-up and was bound to get a longer rope. His parched runs column was hurting the Sri Lankan middle-order massively and they looked like sitting ducks against quality attacks.
Sri Lanka lost early wickets and needed an experienced hand to weather the early storm. Though the pitch had some help for the bowlers, their batsmen did play a lot of needless strokes. Mathews took guard under the storm at 62 for 3 and was quick enough to assess the situation. He bid his time and crafted the innings beautifully.
Mathews’ knock ensured Sri Lanka crossed the 230-run mark and gave their bowlers something to defend. He holds the key and his success in the middle is very crucial for the batting to follow. When Mathews is in form, he not only scores runs but also makes batting look easy. Sri Lanka, in all likelihood, are out of the race of making it to the semi-finals but ending on a winning note will only infuse self-belief in the budding side. There were doubts regarding his elevation to 4 and it will be interesting to see if Sri Lanka will do that in the matches to come, which will not be less than a masterstroke.
Lasith Malinga weaves magic, yet again
The ability to step up when the chips are down is one of the key things that separate legends from players. Despite being in the twilight of his career, there is absolutely no doubt regarding Lasith Malinga’s effectiveness in this batsman-dominated game. He single-handedly brought Sri Lanka back into the game and used his resources shrewdly.
What a run Malinga is enjoying! After helping Mumbai Indians clinch their fourth IPL trophy he has done extremely well for Sri Lanka in this tournament. With equal support from his imminent peers, the Sri Lankan legend scripted history and turned things on its head in the final few overs to walk away with a confidence boosting win.
Defending 233 against the star-studded English attack was never going to be Sri Lanka’s game, but Malinga’s heroics provided the slight ray of hope and then his teammates made it a reality. He got his team off to a perfect start by trapping Jonny Bairstow leg before on the very second delivery and then made further inroads by getting rid of James Vince.
Just when England threatened to take the game away, he chipped in with two more wickets to steer his side to total command. He gave it all in his ten overs to bag four wickets and tightened the noose with his tight line and length. There is only one Malinga, there can hardly be another one. He may not be the best bowler to have embraced the game but certainly one of its kinds. Don’t let the beefy appearance or the jolly smiles fool you, he will cut you with his guile and batter you with his arch.
England need to have fewer bad days at the office
On any other day, this would have been a regulation chase for the English side but it seems like the pressure of big tournaments is getting the better of them more often than not. 233 is a target that England would have chased down inside 25 overs. And it’s not an exaggeration! They have the most number of 300 plus totals in ODIs played after the 2015 World Cup and have wreaked havoc against best of the attacks at will.
They fought brilliantly in 2016 World T20, but an erratic last over denied them the title. In 2017 Champions Trophy, they ran through the oppositions but one bad day in office against Pakistan in the semi-final cost them a spot in the final. Coming back to this edition, they are red hot favourites, but have had two bad days at the office so far and what makes it worse is the fact that both the teams they lost to were struggling to get going.
Though England’s chances of making it to the semi-finals are still alive, the dream of finishing as table-toppers is in all likeliness is over. They have been the best ODI team since last World Cup, but this tournament is a different ball game altogether, where not only skills but temperament is also tested.
Should England make it to the semi-finals, they cannot afford to have such a day again; in fact, they cannot afford to undergo such an outing anymore in the tournament. They need to treat every game as just another ODI encounter of a bilateral series.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi