Cricket World Cup 2015: How England can beat Sri Lanka

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport in Wellington
Sri Lanka
Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Tillakaratne Dilshan both made centuries in Sri Lanka's 92-run win over Bangladesh
England v Sri Lanka
Venue: Wellington (Regional Stadium). Date: Sunday, 28 February. Time: 22:00 GMT, Saturday, 27 February. Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

England meet Sri Lanka in Wellington on Sunday knowing that victory will move them close to a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.

However, defeat would leave no margin for error in their final two group games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Captain Eoin Morgan has suggested that England could make changes, with batsman Gary Ballance under most threat.

England have lost eight of their previous 12 one-day internationals against Sri Lanka, who would all but seal their last-eight spot with a win.

The match sees England return to the 'Cake Tin', the ground where they were thrashed by New Zealand last Saturday.

The right Ballance?

Yorkshire left-hander Ballance has made only 30 runs in three innings since being selected for England's opening match against Australia, his first ODI since September.

Cricket World Cup 2015: England's batting examined

The decision to bat Ballance at three meant James Taylor, who had impressed in that slot, was pushed down to number six.

If Ballance is left out, Alex Hales could come in to bat in the top three, or all-rounder Ravi Bopara could go to six, with Taylor moving back up the order.

"Unfortunately for Gary, he's struggling for form and so I wouldn't play him," former England off-spinner Graeme Swann told BBC Sport.

"Other teams have shown that aggressive play at the top can really reap the benefits and England have one of the most aggressive batsmen in the world in Alex Hales. He should be in at the top of the order."

How do England stop Sri Lanka's batsmen?

In Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka have the only two batsmen in the tournament to have scored more than 1,000 runs in World Cups. Both scored centuries in their last innings.

Opener Tillakaratne Dilshan is also coming off the back of a hundred in the win against Bangladesh, while captain Angelo Mathews scored the second highest number of ODIs runs in 2014 - behind Sangakkara.

"It will be very difficult for England," said Swann. "Sri Lanka's strength is undoubtedly their batting, so, if England bat first, they have to look to post 340 and, if they bowl, they have to look to restrict them to 260.

"For Sangakkara, I'd recommend bowling off-spin at him as early as possible. He's not a great starter against off-spin, especially if there's a bit of turn."


Sri Lanka stranglehold

Sri Lanka have not only dominated recent one-day internationals, but they also won the Test series and one-off Twenty20 international in England last summer.

However, the ODI series that Mathews' side won 5-2 at the end of last year was played in Sri Lanka, with conditions much different to those expected in Wellington.

"I don't think Sri Lanka have any psychological hold on England," said Swann. "I couldn't see the logic of going to Sri Lanka to prepare for the World Cup.

"Recent form won't come in to it and England do have a team that could easily beat Sri Lanka."

'A must-win game for England'

England's results in their opening three matches have supported the pre-tournament notion that the game against Sri Lanka would be pivotal.

Defeats against Australia and New Zealand were as expected as the victory over Scotland. Now, a win against Sri Lanka would leave England in line to finish third in Pool A and, in theory, earn an easier quarter-final.

Morgan considering team changes

But defeat would have England sweating against minnows Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who earned an unexpected point thanks to an abandoned game with Australia. Remember, England lost to Bangladesh and Ireland four years ago.

"We always thought this would be a must-win game, and now it looks that way even more," said Swann.

"They have to win this to convince people they are genuine contenders and not just also-rans. The point that Bangladesh earned against Australia could haunt England, but they have to think that they aren't going to slip up."

What they said

England pace bowler Chris Woakes: "It's important that we show up against the big teams, we need to show how good we can. It's a big game because we've already lost two in the tournament."

Sri Lanka coach Marvan Atapattu: "England have a balanced side, but probably aren't happy with the way things have gone in the recent past. They have got some terrific batsmen in the first seven and, on their day, one of the best seam attacks."

The stats

  • In England's last three ODIs at the 'Cake Tin', they have made scores of 89, 130 and 123.
  • Mahala Jayawardene will earn his 445th ODI cap, going joint-second on the all-time list with Sanath Jayasuriya, behind on Sachin Tendulkar's 463.
  • These teams have met nine times in World Cups. Sri Lanka have won both knockout games (1996 and 2011), but England have won six of the seven group games.

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