England need to push hard for semis


THE REALITY CHECK – It’s hard to predict what England will do in this World Cup. While Sri Lanka sailed to the second round with only one loss to Pakistan, England struggled to advance after defeats to Ireland and Bangladesh. However, England have come good when it mattered the most.
Today in Colombo, the odds will be heavily stacked against England, with Sri Lanka playing in front of a home crowd at the Premadasa – a place where they can become quite intimidating for visiting teams. Sri Lankans have got more balance in their side. Batting is clicking for them with Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillekaratne Dilshan piling up the runs. The bowlers are also doing their job well with Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan leading the show.
Muralitharan had a slight thigh strain but is expected to be fit for today’s game. Despite their fine run, the Lankans might be under a bit of pressure as they will be playing a knockout game at home and anything less than a win will be treated with severe criticism by home fans.
On the other hand, England are a capable team but have lacked consistency in this tournament. At times they have been brilliant, but on quite a few occasions their performance has been abysmal. This makes them a dangerous side given their unpredictability and also the fact that they have been through some tough games which would have hardened them mentally.
Tim Bresnan has a slight injury scare but is expected to be fit today. England can also bring in James Anderson due to his experience and the ability to reverse swing the ball, which can be a factor today. England’s best chance of doing well today is if they get to bat first and go out and put a decent total on board. Batting will get difficult as the day progresses. Graeme Swann will have to play a big role for England, given his versatility.
It is about time for him to stand up and be counted at the biggest stage. He has got an able ally in James Tredwell and the 20 overs from these two will be crucial for England. Andrew Strauss and his men might be fatigued, but this is the time for them to stand up and show their mental toughness. Otherwise, Sri Lanka look on course to become the third team from the sub-continent to make it to the semi-finals.
Form Guide & Conditions – It has been a close battle between England and Sri Lanka in the ODIs with England winning 23 and Sri Lanka winning 21 of the 44 games played. England have won six of their eight World Cup meetings against Sri Lanka. However, conditions will be taxing for them in Colombo today.
It will be hot and humid, something England just don’t like. There is also a chance of some showers later in the day. With pitch on the slower side, batsmen will need to graft and team winning the toss will look to bat first.
Watch Out For – Mahela Jayawardene can be the key man in the middle order for Sri Lanka. The compact batsman has done well so far and with his class and talent, you can expect him to up the ante and lead the way for Sri Lanka in today’s quarterfinal. It’s time for Graeme Swann to step up and give it his best. If England are to do well today, Swann’s input with the ball will be absolutely vital. If he manages to deliver, England will have a good chance to thwart Sri Lanka.
Who Wins – Sri Lanka are the firm favourites to win the fourth quarter-final, with home advantage on their side in addition to the form they have been in during this tournament.