Dubai: The World Cup has come alive. Sri Lanka’s stunning win over favourites England in a low-scoring contest has revived the Island nation’s hopes, while seriously denting the hosts’ chances.
If this result has a role in England not qualifying for the semi-finals, then Moeen Ali should rue his reckless shot, which provided the turning point for Sri Lanka’s win.
The dangerous veteran war horse Lasith Malinga struck a double blow by dismissing Joe Root, against the run of play, and bowled a brilliant yorker-length delivery to dismiss Jos Buttler leg before to open the floodgates for a Sri Lanka comeback.
But Ben Stokes and the newman Moeen Ali negated Malinga, the dual left-hand combination rendering the pacer ineffective. They built a partnership of 26 runs and cruising comfortably towards steadying the England ship on difficult pitch that had plenty of assistance to the bowlers as the ball held back marginally, making stroke-making difficult.
Sri Lanka brought back spinner Dhananjaya de Silva and after hitting the off-spinner for a six, Ali, using his feet, again went for a big shot, holing out at long-off.
When the asking rate was only around five runs an over and Stokes batting at the other end, a sensible batting was the need of the hour, which the talented Ali is guilty of not playing according to the requirement. Buoyed by the left-hander’s gift, the spinner got two more wickets in the next over to trigger a collapse.
The entire match almost followed a similar path, with the worm in the graph providing very little difference. In this context, former Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Matthews battling innings is worth the weight in gold. His 57-run partnership with de Silva for the sixth wicket proved the difference.
It is here Moeen Ali’s wicket played a crucial role. England’s sixth wicket fell at 170, while for the Sri Lankans it was at 190, both teams scored 42 runs for the last four wickets. There you go, the margin of victory is 20 runs!
However, Sri Lanka owe everything to the man of the match Malinga, who provided the early breakthrough by dismissing Jonny Bairstow and following it up with the wicket of James Vince. When Root and Buttler were comfortably pacing the innings, the Slinga struck the twin blow in two overs to push the hosts on the backfoot.
Stokes, coming in at No. 5, waged a lone battle in the end to punish the bowlers to take them closer to the target, scoring all of the 26 runs in the last-wicket partnership, shepherding Mark Wood and giving him strike only on the last ball of the over. But Nuwan Pradeep bowled at the right spot to get his only wicket of the match, nevertheless a vital one.
What looked an easy run to the semi-finals is going to be a rocky affair for the hosts as they must play three of the other top four teams in the table, Australia, New Zealand and India, in their final three matches. The World Cup is now hotting up as one point is the difference between the top six teams, Australia leading with 10 and Bangladesh at 5. Hold your breath, more surprises to come!