Twenty20 World Cup favorites England effectively sealed a place in the semi-finals after Jos Buttler’s fiery century created a 26-race victory against a lively Sri Lanka in their Group I match on Monday.
England looked to strike under pressure for the first time in the tournament, but the Buttlers undefeated 101 off 67 balls fired them to strong 163-4 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka threatened at one point to trigger a revolt before being ruled out with 137 in 19 overs, and fell to defeat despite Wanindu Hasaranga’s all-round brilliance.
England, seeking to become the first team to host the ODI and T20 World Cups at the same time, consolidated their position as group leaders with their fourth win in as many matches.
Buttler, the obvious choice for the man-of-the-match award, also caused two run-outs and led the team as they walked off the field.
“I found it really hard early on,” Buttler said.
“I managed to get a really good collaboration with Morgs [England skipper Eoin Morgan] and we tried to attack the rear end. We thought the spin bowlers were a little difficult and thought 120 could be a good score. “
The victory was significant for Morgan, who returned to form with a knock of 40, and who also became the world’s most successful T20 captain with his 43rd victory.
“We are just happy with the victory. Sri Lanka have pushed us further than we have been pressured so far in this tournament.”
Buttler’s turn was applauded by players from around the world, with David Warner praising the “seriously good bank” on Twitter.
His English team-mate Ben Stokes praised Buttler as the “best in the world”.
The chasing teams had won 13 of the previous 16 matches in the Super 12 stage, which made Sri Lanka’s captain Dasun Shanaka’s decision to pose after winning the throw hardly any surprise.
Shanaka deployed four different bowlers to bowl the first four overs, and their spinners dictated terms early in the match to limit England to 36-3 after powerplay overs.
Ben-spinner Hasaranga, fresh from his hat-trick against South Africa, tricked Jason Roy with a googly to hit his off-stump back.
Kusal Perera misses the goal with a shot from outside the box, but Dushmantha Chameera knocks it past the keeper.
Hasaranga (3-21) returned to trap the goalless Jonny Bairstow lbw, and England worked to make it 47-3 midway through their innings.
Buttler and Morgan struggled to control the spinners on the slow, low-swinging course, and Buttler and Morgan decided instead to go after the pacers and beat Lahiru Kumara in three sixes in the 15th over.
When Buttler went crazy with the bat, England looted 116 runs in the last 10 overs.
Stumper-batsman brought his first century in the T20 Internationals with his sixth six from the last ball of the inning.
Sri Lanka endured their own swings of the highest order as they began their hunt.
Leg spinner Adil Rashid rejected Charith Asalanka and Perera in successive overs to destroy Sri Lanka, but the 2014 champions refused to throw in the towel.
Hasaranga also shone with the bat, scoring for his team with a quickfire 34 of 21 balls to increase Sri Lanka’s hopes of triggering a disturbance, while the dew made it difficult for the English bowlers.
But when he fell for a fantastic relay catch between Jason Roy and Sam Billings on the edge of the border in the 17th over, the collapse started.
Buttler then threw the wicket to run out of Shanaka (26) to effectively seal the match in England’s favor.
Moeen Ali (2-15) and Rashid Khan (2-19) were stingy, and Chris Jordan also hit a decent four overs to finish 2-24.
Off spinner Ali perfectly filled the shoes of the injured Tymal Mills in the fights after the fast bowler had to resign after injuring his right quad – Mills’ injury was the only downfall for an English team that was already without the fast Mark Wood.
“Throughout the tournament, the bowlers have been excellent in the first 10 overs,” Shanaka said after Sri Lanka fell to their third loss in four matches.
“In the second half, we knew the dew factor would be a big factor, but losing wickets on a regular basis really cost the fight for us.”
Sri Lanka are now almost out of the semi-finals after losing their third match out of four.
England take on South Africa on Sunday and look set to go undefeated through the group stage.
ABC / Wires