World Twenty20: All signs point to England defeat against Sri Lanka
In-form Lions are firm favourites to push Stuart Broad's boys closer to elimination
Almost nothing suggests that England can defeat Sri Lanka here tomorrow night to sustain their World Twenty20 campaign. The evidence of recent form is utterly compelling.
One team have lost 11 of their last 15 limited-overs internationals, including five of six T20s. The other have won 14 limited-overs matches in a row, embracing five T20s.
One team dashed to this country from the other side of the globe, passing through 11 time zones and were barely acclimatised when they sleep-walked through their first warm-up match. The other have already played 12 matches here this year, so that they know every blade of grass on the pitch and cloud in the sky.
One team are ranked eighth in the world and, though they have won this tournament once, have won a lower proportion of matches in the competition as a whole than any other major nation. The other are ranked No 1, and although they have never (yet) won this competition, they have reached two finals and a semi-final and have won more matches than any other team.
One team have already won two matches in this tournament, one of which was record-breaking, the other were beaten contentiously in a rain-curtailed contest which left them ruing their misfortune yet again.
At some point the balance between Sri Lanka and England will have to shift. Perhaps, when Sri Lanka tour England in May and June the boot may be on the other foot, but not in the Chowdhury Stadium tomorrow night.
England are searching for small blessings. One is that they started the 2010 tournament badly, won five consecutive matches and captured the title in a blaze of glory (this is to overlook the fact that they were never in the hunt when it came to the next World T20 in 2012).
Another is to suppose that they came here expecting a low, slow surface and instead have found one on which the ball skids through at reasonable pace. England think and hope that this is to their advantage.
But while England might have Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan, Sri Lanka have Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara. Malinga is a phenomenon, who can seemingly unfurl the yorker at will and England could benefit by forcing Sri Lanka to introduce him into the attack earlier.
Watching Malinga in the death overs is to appreciate what a weapon the yorker remains. It is why bowlers such as Bresnan still strive for the sort of unerring perfection that Malinga has.
If England can put Sri Lanka under severe pressure it may leave their opponents' captaincy vulnerable. Dinesh Chandimal is extremely inexperienced and many of the real calls seem to come from the wise veteran behind the stumps, Kumar Sangakkara.
A side not quite certain who is leading it when the chips are down can be exploited. But there is a long way for England to reach that point and they will have to reveal qualities they have concealed all winter to prevail today and to keep realistic aspirations of progress alive.
Chittagong details: World Twenty20
England A D Hales, M J Lumb, M M Ali, E J G Morgan, J C Buttler (wkt), R S Bopara, C J Jordan, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad (capt), J C Tredwell, J W Dernbach
Sri Lanka T M Dilshan, M D K J Perera, D P M D Jayawardene, K C Sangakkara (wkt), L D Chandimal (capt), A D Mathews, N l T C Perera, K M D N Kulasekara, S M S M Senanayake, S L Malinga, B A W Mendis
Umpires R Tucker (Aus) & A Dar (Pak)
Pitch report The pitch here has not been as spin-friendly as expected.
Weather Staying hot and mainly sunny. Maximum temperature: 32C
TV Sky Sports 2, 1-5pm GMT
Odds England 6-4 Sri Lanka 8-15
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