England beat Sri Lanka by four wickets in Sydney to clinch second spot in Group 1 and place in T20 World Cup semi-finals; Jos Buttler's side stutter to target of 142 with two balls to spare after bowlers fight back in second half of Sri Lanka innings; Australia eliminated
Sunday 6 November 2022 04:56, UK
England squeezed into the T20 World Cup semi-finals with Ben Stokes ushering them to a nervy, four-wicket, final-over win over Sri Lanka after a batting wobble in Sydney.
Jos Buttler's side came into Saturday's game knowing victory would take them into the last four but that a defeat would see hosts and defending champions Australia qualify at their expense.
England reached their target of 142 with two balls to spare on a dry, used surface but only after a collapse of five wickets for 36 runs once Alex Hales (45 off 27) and Buttler (28 off 23) had broken the back of the chase with an opening stand of 75 from 45 balls.
Stokes (42no off 36), batting at No 3 after Dawid Malan tweaked his groin in the field, and Chris Woakes (5no) guided England home as they secured second spot in Group 1, behind New Zealand on net run-rate, and a semi-final with the winners of Group 2 in Adelaide on Thursday.
Sam Curran (6) was caught at deep fine leg from the final ball of the 18th over leaving 13 runs required off 12 balls but his replacement Woakes went on to strike the winning four through the off-side.
Stokes played the key hand with the bat, though, a little over three years after he had done the same in the 50-over World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord's in July 2019.
Sri Lanka had made a brisk start after electing to bat, racing to 65-1 after seven overs thanks principally to Pathum Nissanka (67 off 45), but only mustered 76-7 from the last 13 as Adil Rashid (1-16) dried up the run-rate and Mark Wood (3-26) struck three times at the death.
India are England's likely semi-final opponents - Rohit Sharma's men will top their pool if they beat Zimbabwe at the MCG on Sunday - but Buttler's side could also play South Africa, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
The semi-finals will be shorn of the host nation with Australia paying the price for an 89-run hammering against New Zealand in their opening fixture at the SCG - a run-rate-damaging defeat that Aaron Finch's side were unable to recover from as they ended third.
|Team||Played||Won||Lost||No result||Net run-rate||Points|
|New Zealand (Q)||5||3||1||1||+2.112||7|
Australia needed a Sri Lanka win or a washout to progress - the latter was never in play but the former looked possible at times, starting as Sri Lanka began their innings brightly, including by slamming two sixes off Wood that bookended a 17-run third over.
Kusal Mendis (18 off 14) holed out off Woakes (1-24) from the final ball of the fourth over as Liam Livingstone took a tremendous sliding catch at deep backward square, before Dhananjaya de Silva (9) clothed a cutter from Curran (1-27) to Stokes at deep midwicket in the ninth and Stokes (1-24) had Charith Asalanka (8) caught by Malan at backward point in the 11th.
Nissanka kept going until the 15th over, when he became a deserved wicket for leg-spinner Rashid after skying into the leg-side - substitute fielder Chris Jordan, on in place of Malan, running in from long-on to complete the catch.
Nissanka and Rashid were the stars of the innings - the Sri Lankan striking five sixes and two fours and reaching his second half-century of this tournament from 33 balls, and the Englishman not hit for a boundary during his excellent four-over stint as he struck for the first time in this World Cup after three wicketless games.
Nissanka lacked support from his team-mates as the innings progressed but that was not the case for Rashid with his fellow bowlers helping to restrict Sri Lanka, including Wood as the England quick rebounded from his expensive first over of the match.
Wood had Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka (3) caught behind in the 18th over and was then involved in three wickets in the final over, having Bhanuka Rajapaksa (22 off 22) and Chamika Karunaratne (0) caught and also running out Wanindu Hasaranga (9) with a dive as the batter tried to steal a bye.
After fizzling out with the bat, Sri Lanka needed early breakthroughs with the ball but the powerplay was dominated by England as Hales and Buttler plundered 70 from the first six overs, with Hales nailing four boundaries off Kasun Rajitha in a 20-run fifth over.
Sri Lanka leg-spinner Hasaranga had Buttler pouched superbly by Karunaratne at deep midwicket before catching Hales off his own bowling as the England batter bobbled a slog-sweep back to him.
When Harry Brook (4), Livingstone (4) and Moeen Ali (1) suffered tame exits - Brook chipping back to Dhananjaya, Livingstone skying Lahiru Kumara to long-on, Moeen slashing Dhananjaya to extra-cover - England were tottering on 111-5, requiring a further 31 runs from 33 balls.
Stokes and Curran eased the pressure with a partnership of 18 from 21 balls but it cranked up again when Curran hooked Kumara to the man on the fence at deep fine leg.
However, Stokes proved exactly why he is in this England XI with a cerebral knock and Woakes flogged the match-winning four as Buttler's side kept their hopes of becoming dual white-ball world champions alive.
England captain Jos Buttler: "I am not a great watcher, to be honest, so I didn't enjoy it that much. We knew we had to win the game and it's the kind of situation Stokes is made for. He is a proper competitor and it's getting to this stage of the competition where he is going to grow. We are excited. We wanted to find a way to win and get through to a semi-final at one of the best stadiums in the world."
Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka: "It was a fight. We could have done better with the bat. The wicket played a part in this game, even the English batters struggled in the latter part. We didn't play according to the wicket. We gave a good fight in the last 10 overs but didn't bowl well in the powerplay."
Group 2 concludes on Sunday with all six teams in action. South Africa face Netherlands in Adelaide (12am UK time) before Pakistan play Bangladesh at the same venue (4am UK time) and then India meet Zimbabwe in Melbourne (8am UK time).
Next week's semi-finals are in Sydney on Wednesday and then Adelaide on Thursday, both at 8am UK time, with the final in Melbourne on Sunday, November 13 also an 8am start UK time.