Defending champions Sri Lanka ran short by ten runs and could not pull off a heist against England at the World T20 in New Delhi on Saturday.
Thanks to skipper Angelo Mathews’ herculean effort, though, Sri Lanka bowed out of the tournament with their heads held high.
Though they still have a game to play against South Africa, who were also ousted from the tournament with England’s win, at the same venue, the way Mathews nearly snatched the game back from the hands of England was incredible to watch.
After Lanka lost four wickets for just 15 runs, Mathews batted right through the twenty overs and nearly eclipsed Jos Buttler’s effort in the first innings.
Buttler, along side captain Eoin Morgan, managed 72 runs off the last five overs and it appeared as if Mathews followed their approach closely. Mathews targeted the English spinners and collected 63 off their four overs.
Those four overs suddenly brought Lanka back in the game and as it progressed, Lanka was left with 61 runs to get in the last five overs.
In the final over, 15 runs could have taken Lanka deeper into the tournament but it wasn’t to be. Mathews will certainly repent the slip-up in his captaincy after failing to save his spinners for the end. But despite a thrilling finish, Buttler remained the man who made the difference between the two sides, ensuring England a passage into the semis and earning the man-of-the-match award for his unbeaten 37-ball 66.
After England’s horrible batting display against Afghanistan the other day at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Joe Root said that the team would be looking to keep wickets in hand, considering Sri Lanka’s depth in the the spin department.
Until the tenth over on Saturday, both teams had ticked one box each. The English were 65/1 and had wickets intact, while Sri Lanka held the upper hand because their spinners maintained the pressure on the opposition.
Leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay had removed Joe Root in the tenth over, and a score of 150 looked really difficult. Vandersay could have had Buttler as his second scalp had skipper Angelo Mathews not moved back to third man.
That was the only moment in Buttler’s 66-run knock where he looked vulnerable.
What happened after that was an example of how the defending champions lost control of the proceedings and in fact handed England command. Buttler and Co scored 72 runs in the last five overs to take England to 171/4.
With the sole focus on keeping Root and the English top order at bay, Mathews remained disillusioned by taking their middle-order lightly. He disposed off his spinners in the 15th over and was left with seamers. Mathews underestimated the capabilities of Buttler, the same batsman who holds the record of having the fastest centuries in ODI cricket and had also played a match-winning innings of 121 at Lord’s, although in a losing cause.
Buttler waited for this moment. The last five overs in a T20 game can make or break a side and thanks to Buttler, he made the day for England. With bowlers such as Dushmantha Chameera and Thisara Perera left at Mathews disposal, he used the crease well and nullified all their tricks.
Buttler, like AB de Villiers so often does, moved back and across and played clean shots all round the park. Even the slower ones were dispatched with perfection as Buttler purchased extra time to place his strokes.