Sri Lanka must have watched the first two quarterfinal matches keenly. They witnessed West Indies going down tamely and India coming up with a glorious performance to halt Australia in their quest for a fourth title in a row. And then South Africa was felled by New Zealand. They have a few hours before they too can take the stage to win their way to the semifinal. Their opponents will be England, who have also intently followed the quarterfinals.
England's run in this tournament can be summed up as epic. Nothing came easy for them, and at one time, many thought their hope was all but gone, until they snatched a startling victory from the West Indies in their last cliffhanger of a match. What we have seen from the English is an indomitable spirit, something that may push them to achieve more than what many expect, even beating Sri Lanka in their own backyard.
So, the two teams will be meeting at R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo on March 26, to determine who goes ahead chasing the dream and whose dream comes to an end. No doubt, these are strong teams. They are all capable of winning the world cup. Sri Lanka has lifted the trophy once, in 1996, while England is still chasing the elusive dream. The two have met 44 times between 1982 and 2009. England has won 23 times and Sri Lanka 21 times.
England has been ravaged by injuries since the tournament begun, causing some of their key players to return back home. The latest entry on the list of early flights to London is Michael Yardy who has been withdrawn due to depression. Ajmal Shahzad is also out with a hamstring injury. The two will be replaced by Adil Rashid and probably Chris Woakes respectively. Another player on the injured list is Tim Bresnan who has been a good performer for England in the tournament so far, but he is expected to open against Sri Lanka.
It's much of a guess work on the final England squad as it has been throughout the tournament. A number of key players have not been consistent causing team management to try other options. James Anderson was one such replacement against West Indies but whether or not Anderson returns against Sri Lanka or we see a new face in Jade Dernbach, one thing is for sure, Andrew Strauss must marshal his troops well, if their dream run must continue.
Sri Lanka's spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan sustained a hamstring injury during Sri Lanka's win over New Zealand. He bowled well, but was on and off the field during the inning. In the end though, he was instrumental in taking down the Black Caps with his impressive show of 4-25. He is much needed as his team faces England in their quest to reach the semifinal and subsequently the final. News from the team indicated that he will be available.
But apart from the niggling Murali injury, it is their inconsistent middle order that is causing a bit of concern. In their last match against New Zealand, seven of their batsmen were dismissed without making a double figure score. They will need to work on that if they hope to topple the resilient England.
Though the pitch at R. Premadasa Stadium has been renovated, its former ghost of terribly turning in second inning still loams. It's a good batting pitch but favors the team batting first. Sri Lanka lost the toss against Pakistan in their last meeting and went on to lose the match. But more than depending on the toss, the teams should depend on their preparations.
Players to watch
Muttiah Muralitharan is rushed to recovery as his skill will come in handy here, not more as a wicket taker but a run rate checker. England will be hoping that Jonathan Trot continues his good form into this match as well.
These teams are almost equally poised in terms of skills but in terms of resilience in this tournament, England seems to be harboring stronger arsenal. It's a tough call given that it's a knock-out game.
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