Jos Buttler’s Swashbuckling unbeaten maiden T 20 ton makes it four out of four for England after early hiccups – by Sunil Thenabadu (Sports editor – eLanka)
Spot in semi-finals all but stiffened up; even a near miracle could not make a semi-final berth for Sri Lanka:
England 163 for 4 (Buttler 101*, Morgan 40, Hasaranga 3-21) beat Sri Lanka 137 (Hasaranga 34,,Rajapaksa 26,Shanaka 26,Asalanka 21- Moeen 2-15, Rashid 2-19) by 26 runs with an over remaining.
On an uncompromising Sharjah surface -slow ,low ,uneven bounce Sri Lankan skipper Dasun Shanaka had no hesitation in inviting England to bat.In the second over itself Hasaranga was introduced, when an off-spin ball knocked off Jason Roy off stump who was stunned for 9 runs. Shanaka intelligently shuffled his bowlers. Malan the number one ranked T 20 batsmen was beaten neck and crop by Chameera for six runs while in the very next over Hasaranga accounted for Bairstow for a golden duck when DRS came into play. England were shell shocked with only 35 runs on the board in 5.2 overs. The out of form Skipper Morgan coming at number 5 was very tentative at the start but was his earlier self-regaining form ,along with dependable hard hitting Buttler steadied England’s innings to a respectable one adding 112 useful runs for the 4th wicket in 78 balls having accelerated after the tenth over.Morgan who was very slow at the beginning, accelerating later scoring 40 runs in 36 balls including 3 sixes and the solitary boundary. Buttler stood firm and comfortable at one end carried his bat through the inning hoisting 6 sixes,The final six was off the last ball of the innings when on 95 a leg side dolly full toss by Chameera was easily put a way clearing the fine leg fence. Buttler inning not so destructive as the one played against the mighty Australians was compiled in 67 balls with 6 fours and 6 sixes,The first fifty was much slower coming in from 45 deliveries.Buttler was a treat to watch but had some respect for Sri Lankan bowlers. The innings folded at 163 for the loss of 4 wickets.
Hasaranga de Silva had the best bowling figures of 3 for 21.Maheesh Theekshana unlike in the previous two T 20’s was on the spot, more economical giving away only 13 runs in his 4 overs sans a wicket.
The target set was just above 8 runs an over for Sri Lanka to win ,also to have a chance of entering semi-finals. Started disastrously losing opener Pathum Nissanka for just one run in the very first over when Kusal Perera called him for an impossible mis judged run.Kusal continued his poor form in the series to be caught by Morgan off Rashid’s first over top edging for just 7 runs wasting 9 balls.Charith Asalanka started in his usual flamboyant fashion hoisting a six and 3 fours in a 16 ball knock before top edging Rashid to be caught just outside the 30 yard circle for 21 runs.After which Avishka Fernando ,Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Hasaranga and Shanaka all made useful contributions. .Bhanuka Rajapaksa was in his usual flashy way scoring a quick fire 26 including 2 fours and 2 sixes before he was well caught on the long off fence by Roy shin high very close to the long off fence to make it 76 for 5 in the 11th over when things looked frail for Sri Lanka.
The sixth wicket pair of Skipper Dasun Shanaka and Hasaranga de Silva settled to target the England score of 163 for the loss of 4 wickets batted confidently keeping up to the required run rate when Sri Lankan fans even sensed an impossible victory.The duo added 53 useful runs in just 36 balls when Hasaranga lofted Livingstone the left arm spinner in the 17th over when he was pounced brilliantly inches from the long on fence by Roy, then off-loading to substitute fielder Billings for a well compiled 34 in 21 balls with 3 fours and a six.With his dismissal all hopes the Sri Lanka had vanished further when Shanaka was foolishly run out by Buttler trying for a single that was not in existence for 26 runs in 25 balls with a solitary four and a six. The remaining batsman Karunaratne, Chameera and Theekshana succumbed without offering any resistance to be all out for 137 at the end of the 19th over.Moheen Ali, Rashid and Jordan captured two wickets each, while Livingstone and Chris Woakes captured a wicket each .
This victory four in four by England was their toughest assignment of the tournament proving that while the conditions remain still a massive factor, as excellence in all areas could seize the day.For the unbeaten century Jos Buttler was unanimously named the ‘Player of the Match’.