England have taken four victories from their five matches so far and have looked incredibly impressive whilst doing so. Skittling past the West Indies for 55, chasing down Bangladesh’s total with 5.5 overs remaining and then putting in the almost perfect performance against the old enemy, Australia. But it was perhaps the victory against Sri Lanka on Monday that was most remarkable!
Eoin Morgan lost the all important toss and was put into bat by Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka. Up to this point in the tournament thirteen out of sixteen matches had been won by the team bowling first and so England were immediately under the pump before a ball had even been bowled. England lost three early wickets in the power-play with the newly appointed world number one T20 bowler, Wanindu Hasaranga, taking the two crucial wickets of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. Free scoring never looked easy on this Sharjah pitch and England struggled to 36/3 at the end of said power-play. Jos Buttler and, captain, Morgan had to rebuild the innings following the collapse of the top order.
After the power-play, the England batters were kept quiet by the mystery spin of Maheesh Theekshana who finished with an economy of 3.25 after finishing his four overs. It was after seeing off Theekshana; however, when Morgan and Buttler exploded against the Sri Lanka seamers.
Morgan upped his strike rate from well under 100 to finish his innings at 40 (35). This was a welcome return to form for the England skipper having made only 89 runs from his eight T20i innings this year prior to these innings.
It was Buttler that really put Sri Lanka to the sword though, reaching his maiden T20i century off the final ball of the innings by dispatching Dusmantha Chameera into the crowd over square leg for a huge six. After reaching his half century off 45 balls, Buttler then went on to score the next 51 runs off 22 balls to push England up to an above average score in difficult circumstances. The innings were so good, they even received admiration from pantomime villain and Australian opening batter, David Warner, who took to Twitter.
Buttler’s hundred thrusted him to the top of the tournament run scorers list after the game. Since his promotion to open the batting in international T20 cricket his average is a staggering 60.5 with a strike rate a tick under 150. The average is bettered only by Mohammad Rizwan, of Pakistan, but he cannot compete with Buttler’s destructive strike rate.
Inevitably, though, the run of consecutive wins would have to come to an end at some point. South Africa went into the match on Saturday needing to win by a large margin to secure qualification for the semi-finals. England won the toss and elected to field first. South Africa set out with aggression.
Quinton de Kock started the innings well and was joined by Rassie van der Dussen and together they put on 71 (52) until de Kock fell to Adil Rashid (bringing the in form Aiden Markram to the crease). Van der Dussen and Markram went on to add another 103* (52) and set a massive total of 189 off their twenty overs.
Keep in mind that this game was played in Sharjah were 140 has been above par so far this tournament. England started their batting innings well, until, Jason Roy went down with a hamstring injury, ruling him out of the rest of the tournament. They spent most of the innings struggling to keep pace with the South African total and eventually fell eleven runs short, with Kagiso Rabada picking up a hat-trick in the final over to kill off any English hope of a final over miracle.
England will play the first semi-final on Wednesday against New Zealand whilst Pakistan take on Australia on Wednesday in the other fixture, ahead of Sunday’s final (see the dates and times below).
Roy’s loss to injury is huge for England as he often sets the tone for the innings with his power and swagger at the top of the order. Bairstow is likely to be promoted to open alongside Buttler on Tuesday, a role he has enjoyed great success in internationally and in the IPL, with Sam Billings expected to slot into the middle order. England go into the game against New Zealand as favourites, but you can never rule out the Kiwis in ICC competitions.
England vs. New Zealand - 10th November at 14:00
Pakistan vs. Australia - 11th November at 14:00