Ben Stokes hit a gutsy unbeaten 42 as England made the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semi-finals on Saturday with a tense four wicket win over Sri Lanka, ending the hopes of defending champions Australia whose title defence is now over.
England needed to win to make the last four from Group 1 alongside already-qualified New Zealand, and they achieved the feat with two balls to spare. If they had lost, Australia would have gone through.
Earlier in the match, Pathum Nissanka slammed 67 before Sri Lanka collapsed to 141-8. The Sri Lankans made a storming start on a fine evening with a plethora of sixes and reached 80-2 after 10 overs.
England gradually made inroads, however, and slowed the run-rate with more disciplined bowling to dominate the second half of the game and keep the total within reach.
Victory will propel them into the last four from Group 1 alongside already-qualified New Zealand – at the expense of defending champions Australia.
But a loss will end their tournament, with Australia instead progressing.
Sri Lanka, who have not beaten England in a T20 since 2014, cannot go through even with a victory.
Dasun Shanaka won the toss and asked England to field, conscious that all five games at the ground during the World Cup have been won by the team batting first.
Nissanka pulled Ben Stokes for an authoritative six off the second ball and two more sixes in the third over, off Mark Wood, signalled their intent.
But an aggressive 39-run opening stand came to an end when Kusal Mendis (18) attempted another boundary from Chris Woakes and Liam Livingstone held a running catch near the ropes.
Nissanka kept the runs flowing with Sri Lanka ending the six-over powerplay on 54-1, before his new partner Dhananjaya de Silva (9) slogged at a slower Sam Curran ball and was caught by Stokes in the deep.
They reached 80-2 at the halfway point, but then another wicket fell, with Livingstone taking a simple catch to remove Charith Asalanka (8) after he skied a Stokes delivery.
Nissanka brought up his second 50 of the tournament and ninth overall with a single and then crunched Stokes for six to pass 1,000 T20 career runs.
But tight bowling from spinner Adil Rashid slowed the run-rate and he eventually accounted for Nissanka, who heaved to substitute fielder Chris Jordan at long-on after an entertaining 45-ball knock, with five sixes and two fours.
Sri Lanka never regained any momentum, making just 25 off the last five overs with three wickets falling in the final over.
Here’s a look at the reactions following the match:
Report by AFP