“Well, this World Cup needed a thriller, it needed an upset, it couldn’t have been bigger than this”
There is life in this World Cup! Sri Lanka have done something that no one would’ve imagined. Nobody would’ve even given them an iota of a chance when they were stacked up against hot favourites and hosts, England. In fact, if you would’ve put your money on Sri Lanka, people would’ve laughed it off. However, it did happen! Sri Lanka beat England in a thrilling game and shocked the world.
Since September 2018 i.e. the start of the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka won a mere two ODI games before this World Cup. They had a win percentage of 28.23% in ODIs since the last World Cup in 2015. In fact, every time they turned up to play, a loss was hovering around. It was almost a given. The captain had been changed just before the World Cup. The team composition was reshuffled, players have been moved around and there was havoc all around.
The first game of this World Cup stamped the same. They simply succumbed to the New Zealand pace attack and crumbled to 136 all out. There was absolutely no hope. In fact, such was their form that going into the game against Afghanistan, they weren’t clear favourites.
Also read: Have Sri Lankan bowlers begin team’s redemption?
However, they found a way. Despite the batsmen failing to cash in a good start, the bowlers stood up and saved the blushes. They beat Afghanistan by 34 runs. A couple of consecutive washouts gave them two points which was effectively one win. They got lucky! However, they were back to square one when they were thrashed by Australia by 87 runs. Yes, they did fight but that fight didn’t last long.
Coming into this England game, there was absolutely no chance. England were bullish throughout and barring the blip against Pakistan, they were clinical in all their games. In fact, the batting was in such flow that it led to former England skipper tweeting,
Early call .. If England Bat first 400 will be scored .. !! Morning everyone .. #CWC19
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) June 21, 2019
400? Well, we saw how England batted against Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan. It may well have been possible. But Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat. However, it turned out to be another disappointing show. 232 wasn’t a par score. It was Angelo Mathews who scored an unbeaten 85 to pull them to that score. They were well short and another loss loomed large. It seemed like it would be a stroll in the park for England, considering the form they’ve been in.
However, an old workhorse named Lasith Malinga had other ideas as he decided to turn back the clock. He started with a bang as he nipped out the England openers early and the hosts were on the backfoot. However, the depth England had, they were always favourites.
Joe Root was going about his business as usual. However, Eoin Morgan failed to convert his start as he was dismissed off a juicy full toss. Ben Stokes joined Root in the middle and England’s rebuilding phase continued. They never had the pressure of the run-rate with just 233 to get. However, once this partnership was broken, Sri Lanka came back to life.
Root was strangled down the leg and it was Lasith Malinga again who provided the breakthrough. He soon dismissed Jos Buttler cheaply and the game opened up. Yet, England were favourites. Malinga had just a couple of overs towards the death and England had depth in their batting.
Moeen Ali and Stokes tried to repair the damage and take the game closer. But a brain-fade from Ali cost him his wicket and Sri Lanka were up again. It was Dhananjaya de Silva who got the breakthrough. The off-spinner then made a couple of more dents. He dismissed Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid in an identical fashion to continue and put Sri Lanka ahead. However, Stokes was still out there and Jofra Archer is no mug with the bat and can very well win the game as well.
However, this time it was Isuru Udana induced the false shot from Archer and Sri Lanka edged closer. Yet, there was a scare. Ben Stokes started to smash it around the park and kept taking the game closer. However, just when it looked like he was starting to make England a touch comfortable, Mark Wood nicked one when he had to survive just one delivery. Nuwan Pradeep got the wicket and the Sri Lankan team was jubilant. They pulled off the upset of this World Cup.
Throughout the run-chase, England were ahead. Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, the game was in England’s favour. Even the win predictor during the broadcast was in favour of England up until they lost their 8th wicket.
However, credit to Sri Lanka, they hung in there. What they did really well was to pile up the pressure when wickets didn’t come. They didn’t get frustrated; they did not give easy boundaries and just keep bowling tight lines and lengths. And every time England found some partnership going, they found a way to get a breakthrough.
It was all heart from Sri Lanka. They found heroes. Lasith Malinga became one for the umpteenth time. They found one in Dhananjaya de Silva. They found another in Isuru Udana. They found another in Dimuth Karunaratne as captain. They were just inspired.
They defied the odds, they fought hard, they hung in there, they proved the world, the critics wrong and did something nobody expected them to. They beat England in a thriller and are alive in this World Cup.
Well, this World Cup needed a thriller, it needed an upset, it couldn’t have been bigger than this!