The England team can ditch the calculators as the equation is a now simple one.
With run-rates being crunched since the nervy win over Afghanistan, England’s path into the knock out stages was made a lot clearer on Good Friday when Darren Sammy’s West Indies edged past South Africa.
If England win against Sri Lanka on Saturday then a place in the semi-final awaits.
It sounds straightforward but England fans will know not to get too carried away, even if the Sri Lanka side is missing some familiar faces.
Sri Lanka’s glorious, cathartic World T20 win two years ago was followed by the international retirements of several world class operators and their results since have taken a corresponding dip. In two years up to the 2014 final the Lions won 19 T20 internationals and lost eight but since the victory over India they have only won four and lost 10.
Despite the loss of captain and gun-slinger Lasith Malinga to a niggling knee injury, Sri Lanka will provide an exacting trial by spin for a batting line-up which struggled against Afghanistan’s four-pronged attack. Miserly Jeffery Vandersay’s economy rate was 2.75 in the loss to the Windies while Milinda Siriwardana took 2-33.
Their batting line-up has the experience and explosiveness to set imposing targets too. Tillakaratne Dilshan has enduring quality while Dinesh Chandimal produced scores of 50, 37 and 58 at the recent Asia Cup. Plus classy captain Angelo Mathews has been worryingly quiet since smashing 81* against New Zealand in January; he is too good not to make a telling contribution with the bat in this tournament.
England opener Alex Hales is expected to be fit after a change of mattress at the team hotel to cure his back spasm and the other question for Trevor Bayliss is whether to include Hampshire’s Liam Dawson as a third spinner. The pitch at Kotla is slow without prodigious turn so the blend of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali with three pace options looks likely to continue.
The bowlers delivered to defend 142 against Afghanistan, the match after the batters chased down a WT20 record of 230 to beat South Africa. Marry the two and England can kickstart a title tilt against Sri Lanka, after a hearty cheer for Chris Gayle and co.
When Saturday 26 March
Where Kotla, Delhi
Start 14:00 (GMT)
How to keep up with the action?
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Sam Billings (Kent), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Hampshire), James Vince (Hampshire), David Willey (Yorkshire).
Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Shehan Jayasuriya, Milinda Siriwardena, Dasun Shanaka, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dushmantha Chameera, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Jeffrey Vandersay.
Big game for…
Alex Hales’ opening partnership with Jason Roy has been outstanding in their two games together so far, taking the West Indies for 37 in 4.3 overs and then obliterating South Africa and Dale Steyn for 48 in 2.3 overs. The 27 year-old is the only Englishman to score a T20i ton, appropriately against Sri Lanka at the WT20 in Chittagong two years ago, and is in stellar white-ball form in 2016. Hales is ranked third in the world in T20i batting and struck five successive ODI half centuries, including 99 and 112, in South Africa.
Tillakaratne Dilshan may be soon bringing the curtain down on a career at the very top end of all formats but his 83* against Afghanistan showed his continued appetite for the big occasion. The 39 year-old has the third most WT20 runs in history (859) and like Hales is in the 20-strong elite group of those to make a T20i century. Should Dilshan emerge from the powerplay unscathed, how he plays England’s spinners could be crucial in the outcome.
Quotes from the key men
Joe Root: “There is always pressure to perform. We know it’s a must-win game but it’s been like that since we got here. For us it’s ultimately about winning our game. That’s all we can worry about because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to qualify.”
Dinesh Chandimal: “England played the first two games in the Wankhede and we all know that’s one of the best pitches India have got. In here, it’s totally different. Wickets are slow. I think we’ll have a good chance.”
20 May 2014 at The Oval: Sri Lanka won by nine runs
27 March 2014 in Chittagong: England won by six wickets
1 October 2012 in Pallekele: Sri Lanka won by 19 runs
25 June 2011 in Bristol: Sri Lanka won by nine wickets
13 May 2010 in St Lucia: England won by seven wickets
World T20 results/fixtures
16 March in Mumbai: lost to West Indies by six wickets
18 March in Mumbai: beat South Africa by two wickets
23 March in Delhi: beat Afghanistan by 15 runs
26 March in Delhi: vs Sri Lanka
17 March in Kolkata: beat Bangladesh by six wickets
20 March in Bengaluru: lost to West Indies by seven wickets
26 March in Delhi: vs England
28 March in Delhi: vs South Africa
Did you know?
England were the only team to beat Sri Lanka en route to their 2014 triumph in Bangladesh.
England have made 170 plus in eight of their last 12 T20 internationals.
Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan is ranked 14th in the world in T20i cricket. England’s Alex Hales is number three behind Australia’s Aaron Finch and India’s Virat Kohli.
England are ranked fifth in the world in T20 cricket. Sri Lanka are eighth.