Yawn. I don’t know why I am bothering with this review. It was such a boring match. Sri Lanka lost an early wicket, had a moment of glory, then lost four more and, while they at least batted out their 50 overs, 232 was never enough. Until, wait on, what? They won? Yes, they won. It never looked likely right up until Mark Wood edged one behind when he was tasked with facing a solitary ball as Ben Stokes was farming the strike at the end, and suddenly Sri Lanka had won by 20 runs. Even then, Stokes was on target to get England home but nope. Right when it was needed, they took the wicket. Had they not taken that wicket right then, chances were that Stokes was going to win it next over. It was a miracle. The upset to beat all upsets. Sri Lanka had beaten England in 4 of their last 5 World Cup matches, now 5 out of 6, but nobody thought they would win this one. Not even Sri Lanka.
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Five Things We Learned:
(1) Don’t presume a match is won until it’s won
England were far too casual with this match, as were more of the people watching this one. While there is no doubt that England are the better side, their lack of concentration meant that Sri Lanka weren’t bowled out cheaply and then they lost too many wickets at the wrong time. England treated this like a warm-up match, and it was the perfect storm of poor concentration to give Sri Lanka a chance.
(2) Lasith Malinga has still got it
He was bowling up a storm and was unlucky not to get 5 wickets. Certainly the pick of the bowlers, and he just got better as he kept going. He’s 35 years old now and has been semi-retired for about 9 years now. He is mostly a T20 professional. But he still makes himself available for ODIs, and Sri Lanka sure are lucky that he did! Other teams could take notice of this. Had AB de Villiers been allowed to play for South Africa, he may have had the same kind of impact that Malinga did for Sri Lanka. Australia could have had James Faulkner. West Indies could have had Marlon Samuels, Keiron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. What a great performance.
(3) Ben Stokes is a genius
When everyone else was stunned into stupidity, Ben Stokes just turned it on with some well-timed big hitting which should have won it for England. He was not out at the end on 85, and, had Mark Wood not been out that ball, the next 6 were going to the fence and England were going to win it. It’s not his fault that they lost. He did everything he possibly could have done. Bar him, about the only other one who even batted sensibly was Joe Root.
(4) Slow 85s off 115 balls can be useful
At the time, many people were criticising Angelo Mathews for his 85 off 115 balls at a strike rate of just 73.91 for being too slow, but that was the difference between Sri Lanka being bowled out for about 150 or 170 perhaps and getting all the way to 232. They were 9 wickets down at the end, the last partnership worth 12 runs, but number 11 Pradeep only faced one delivery. Indeed, the last 4 faced a combined 16 deliveries out of 39, with Mathews taking the other 23. It’s not quite total farming, but it was a big deal. Take his 23 deliveries out and they get 200 instead of 232. In a game decided by 20 runs, Angelo Mathews’s perseverance and his knock gave Sri Lanka a chance.
(5) England’s spot in the semi-finals is no longer guaranteed
Suddenly, with 2 upset losses, and yet to face any of the other top 4 teams, England are suddenly in danger of missing out on the semi-finals, with Sri Lanka now primed to be a chance of moving past them in 4th spot. They aren’t there yet, but there is only 2 points between them, which represents one win. England will now need to beat 2 of Australia, India and New Zealand, and they’ve lost to them quite a lot in recent World Cup matches. Sri Lanka for their part are far from guaranteed to make the semi-finals but they are now a much better chance than they were before this match.