New Delhi: After a below-par batting performance against minnows Afghanistan, England will be determined to get their act together against defending champions Sri Lanka in their Group 1 encounter in the ICC World T20 in New Delhi on Saturday.
It will be quite a test for the Joe Roots and Eoin Morgans as they will face at least eight overs of quality spin bowling from left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay on a sluggish Kotla track.
While the match will be Sri Lanka's third league game, the England side under Eoin Morgan will be going all out to notch up their third win in a bid to qualify for the semifinals.
England, according to legendary Sachin Tendulkar's prediction, is the favourite to be among the four semifinalists. With two wins out of three, a good win against a depleted Sri Lankan side will not only enhance their chances of semifinal qualification but also become a cause of worry for other teams.
For England, the tournament so far has been a mixed bag. On a flat Wankhede deck, their batsmen fared well in both matches.
While Chris Gayle's blazing blade saw them lose against the West Indies despite scoring 182, it was sheer brilliance of Joe Root and Jason Roy which enabled them to chase down a mammoth target of 230 against South Africa.
Root, with scores of 48 and 83 in both matches, has looked in good form. But England's batting got thoroughly exposed against a much weaker but spirited Afghanistan side on a tricky Feroz Shah Kotla track in their last match.
It was Moeen Ali's rear guard action that saved them the blushes against the Afghans after being reduced to 85 for seven. While English batsmen look comfortable against pacers when the ball is coming onto the bat, Herath and Vandersay might ask a few probing questions on a pitch conducive for slow bowlers.
Vandersay, who was summoned as a replacement for the injured Lasith Malinga, was impressive despite Sri Lanka's one-sided defeat against West Indies. Using the feet to reach the pitch of the deliveries will be the key and skipper Morgan's IPL experience could come in very handy for the English batsmen, most of whom have little or no experience of playing on these surfaces.
But if England bowl first, they do have off-spinner Ali and leg-spinner Adil Rasheed to trouble the opposition. It was the Pakistan origin leg-break bowler, who troubled the Afghans with his variations in pace and length the other evening but against the defending champions, it will be a different test.
Veteran opener Tillekaratne Dilshan, who is back in form, will like to use all his experience of playing on these tracks, but he would certainly need to support at the other end. Sri Lanka, who are going through the transition phase, have found it very hard to be consistent.
To be fair, even with all his cricketing attributes, skipper Angelo Mathews has looked out of depth at times in the shortest format, which is not the case when he plays Tests and ODIs.
More so, because a few players like Dinesh Chandimal and Chamara Kapugedara, who have been playing long enough for the
Sri Lankan side, have not transformed from being potential to sure shot match winners. With no Malinga in the line-up, there is way too much pressure on 37-year-old Herath to lead the attack.
Nuwan Kulasekara is an honest trier but his presence is not as intimidating as Malinga's and nor can he bowl those effective yorkers like the slinger. His new ball partner Dushmantha Chameera is talented but needs to more experience to become a top quality bowler. There would be a lot riding on Thisara Perera, whose all-round skills with big hitting prowess at the back end, can prove to be handy.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Kapugedera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Thisara Perera, Sachithra Senanayake, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne.
England: England: Jason Roy, James Vince, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Sam Billings, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Reece Topley, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Liam Dawson.