Big picture: Stragglers in desperate search for points
So, how’s that whole “attacking champions” thing working out? Jos Buttler
may always regret saying England wouldn’t be “trying to defend anything”
out in India – a statement that appears to be coming true uncomfortably quickly – but they are not quite at the point of no return, despite only being kept off the bottom of the table by Bangladesh’s thumping defeat to South Africa on Tuesday
. Cornered lions, anyone?
Peeling off five wins in a row in order to reach 12 points – which would include beating the behemoth that is India on their own patch – looks a tall order, even before you account for the trough into which England’s ODI form has fallen. But if the miracle resurrection is going to start somewhere then it will have to be in Bengaluru against fellow stragglers Sri Lanka on Thursday.
As the sun was beating down on England in Mumbai – it can get quite hot in India, who knew? – during that epochal shellacking by South Africa
, several hundred kilometres to the north, Sri Lanka were quietly working their way on to the board at this World Cup, ending a debilitating run of three consecutive defeats with a five-wicket win over Netherlands
. Expectations were not so high but, like England, they have found themselves on the ropes, pummelled for a record World Cup total
by South Africa in their opener, then succumbing to a record World Cup chase
These teams have plenty of World Cup history, too. Before England stumbled against New Zealand
in Ahmedabad, Sri Lanka were the last World Cup holders to lose their opening match – beaten by the hosts (yep, England) in 1999. But Sri Lanka have won all four encounters in the competition since then and five out of the last six, along the way handing out memorably brutal lessons in Faisalabad
What to expect this time? England are clearly in a hole after three chastening losses, and it will take a confidence trick of sizeable proportions to turn things around. They have tried shrugging off defeat, they have tried “letting it hurt”, they have tried the old “go harder” mantras. From the outside, Matthew Mott
has not had to intervene much since taking charge of the white-ball teams in mid-2022 (in which time, of course, they have added a T20 World Cup to the trophy cabinet) but some inspiration is now required if this campaign is not going be ranked alongside the worst of their horror run between 1996-2015.
In terms of selection, having already used the 15 players they took out, there are few cards left for England to play – although there is a lingering hope that the incoming Brydon Carse
can prove a Liam Plunkett-esque battering ram to raise their threat in the middle overs. The batting has misfired more than anyone expected, with just one century and four fifties so far, but a Sri Lanka attack that began the tournament by conceding scores of 428 for 5 and 345 for 4 might be more to their liking.
As for Sri Lanka’s hopes, with fixtures against India and New Zealand still to come, it’s a hard road to get into the top four. But they have shown glimpses of their abilities, mainly through Kusal Mendis
(who has assumed the captaincy alongside the gloves) and Sadeera Samarawickrama
with the bat, as well as Dilshan Madushanka’s wicket-taking ability with the ball.
Their impressive World Cup record against England won’t maintain itself but victory would leave at least one Englishman happy, with head coach, Chris Silverwood
, coming up against the side he used to coach for a second time (Sri Lanka having lost a tight game in the group stage at last year’s T20 World Cup). On the ground where England famously tied with India and lost to Ireland in 2011, we might even be due a close finish…
England LLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Jos Buttler and Kusal Mendis
So far at this World Cup, England’s captain has been let down by his best batter. Luckily, Jos Buttler
doesn’t mind having a word with himself – famously, he has a two-word phrase written on the top of his bat handle as a reminder of what to do when in doubt – and a quick pep talk might be in order after four innings which have realised just 87 runs
. His captaincy was called into question following the decision to bowl first against South Africa but there would be no better way to lift England’s faltering campaign than by producing the sort of middle-order devastation few others are capable of.
In the opposite corner, another wicketkeeper-captain who carries his side’s hopes with the bat. It is only just over two years since Kusal Mendis
was sent home from a tour of England for breaching Covid-19 biosecurity rules
but here he is now, leading the side in the wake of Dasun Shanaka’s injury. Mendis was the spark in Sri Lanka’s opening two games, with 76 off 42 in the doomed chase against South Africa and then a 65-ball hundred against Pakistan. He also knows what it takes to beat England in a World Cup, as one of four survivors from the XI that produced an upset at Headingley in 2019
Team news: Carse, Mathews come in as injury replacements
Carse has linked up with the squad after being brought in for the injured Reece Topley, but is not expected to be in contention for this game having most recently bowled in the ODI series with Ireland last month. Chris Woakes
seems likeliest to win a return as Topley’s replacement with the new ball. Mott said England would look at the balance of their XI again after defeat in Mumbai, with Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran all offering different skillsets if they return to the allrounder blueprint.
England (probable): 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Joe Root, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Jos Buttler (capt, wk), 6 Harry Brook, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 David Willey, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Gus Atkinson, 11 Mark Wood
Sri Lanka have been granted permission to bring in vastly experienced former captain Angelo Mathews
as a replacement for Matheesha Pathirana
, although it is unclear what role he might play having only made three ODI appearances in the last two-and-a-half years. Dunith Wellalage might come back into contention having sat out the win over Netherlands.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kusal Mendis (capt, wk) 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Dushan Hemantha/Dunith Wellalage, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Kasun Rajitha, 11 Dilshan Madushanka
The M Chinnaswamy Stadium has a reputation for high-scoring games and lived up to it when the World Cup finally arrived in Bengaluru with Australia vs Pakistan
last week – a game in which 672 runs were scored across 95.3 overs. The city’s climate tends to be more temperate, which might prevent England from running completely out of puff if fielding first (but equally might not, since the mercury could still hit 31°C during the afternoon).