England's Moeen Ali
England's Moeen Ali (left) jumps over a wicket during a training session at Headingly in Leeds, on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Southampton: England are expected to sail smoothly past a struggling Sri Lanka during their World Cup clash at Headingley on Friday. After their emphatic 150-run victory over Afghanistan, the only question is what will be the margin of victory over Sri Lanka. After England’s early defeat to Pakistan, the hosts will now want to rectify that blip and sweep aside all-comers.

Sri Lanka, despite winning the toss in their last match against Australia, lost by 87 runs. There is no fear of rain in Leeds as a sunny day has been forecast. For England this is the ground in which they defended their 350-plus total against Pakistan in the fifth and final ODI of the recent series and won by 54 runs.

For Moeen Ali it will be a special occasion as it will also be his 100th ODI. He was given the honour of talking to the media before the match. So when asked about the milestone, he said: “Obviously, It means a lot. To play 100 games for England, ODI games, it’s a dream. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would get close to it so, you know, it’s an amazing feeling.”

When asked whether in his 99 matches any moment stands out, he said: “Probably the hundred at Bristol will be definitely one. But, no, just being part of the team, being part of the change, I guess, since when I first came in from 2015 and to see the team where we are now, it’s, I think that would be. Looking back, if I was to retire, I’d always think I was part of that change and that whole mindset changing and the great cricket that we’ve played.”

Though Sri Lanka are the next opponents, Moeen’s focus is already on arch-rivals Australia on Tuesday. “We want to win all the games,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t. But it is obviously a big game and all our games are big for us and we know momentum is key, so both teams are playing well and I’m sure they are very confident as well, so it’s a big game no matter what the situation, a World Cup or not a World Cup, it’s a huge game for both teams.”

Moeen believes that any team can beat anyone hence they have to be careful against Sri Lanka. “Teams like Bangladesh are playing really well, and they are a very dangerous side for everybody,” he said. “So you can lose to anybody in this tournament. Sri Lanka can pose a big threat tomorrow and, as you saw against Australia, they were playing really well and probably could have won that game as well. So, you know, at the moment, the top four are there for a reason because they are playing probably the best cricket out of all the teams and most consistent. There’s still a lot of games to go, but it looks like it could be the top four. But anything can happen.”