Can England Disrupt Sri Lanka's Mojo?

A tense win sealed by Lasith Malinga, one merciless defeat of a weaker side, and significant contributions from various places in the XI; Sri Lanka's World T20 campaign so far bears the hallmarks of so many recent sprints to the knockout phase of a world event. In each of those tournaments, the result against England has prefigured their eventual destination. When they have won the England match, as they did in two World Cups, and two World T20s since 2007, they have played the final. If they defeat them again on Tuesday, they will take a significant step towards the semi-finals.

England face a far bleaker reality. They had lost five of six T20s this year, before the rain ruined them against New Zealand. The bowling appears short on penetration, and in the warm-up against India, the batting appeared frail against high-quality spin. Before England can consider a place in the knockouts, they must first overcome inertia.

The key for England may be to sound a charge early in their innings, to force an inexperienced Sri Lanka captain to alter his bowling plans. If they prevent Angelo Mathews from delivering cheap overs with the new ball, or avoid being shackled by Nuwan Kulasekara's swing, they may have Malinga in the attack sooner than Sri Lanka prefer, which in turn creates an opportunity at the death. Ajantha Mendis has not been at his best in the tournament, despite a good haul against clueless Netherlands batsmen, and his overs may be another chance for England to reclaim the kind of fearless cricket that won them the 2010 title.

Sri Lanka will merely seek to keep their T20 machinery well-oiled and efficient. Though a strong start to the tournament might spark fears of complacency among other teams, overconfidence is not Sri Lanka's style. An unbeaten run of 14 matches in Bangladesh this year has exposed few real weaknesses in the team, but there are vulnerabilities in their game, which England are capable of exploiting.


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