Quarter-final Preview: Steady Sri Lanka lock horns with unpredictable England

Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan of England warm up during the England nets session at the M A Chidambaram on March 16, 2011 in Chennai, India.

By Jamie Alter

Colombo: Mar 26, 2011

As Kumar Sangakkara and Andrew Strauss evaluate each other s side, knowing that one will bow out of the World Cup come Saturday night, the form book suggests a tight contest. Sri Lanka look the dominant side but the way England have been playing, few sides would want to come up against them in a knock-out clash.

England have been the team to watch, whether tying with India or losing to Ireland and Bangladesh. They have been hit by injuries and questions about their psyche, but are just a win away from the semi-finals. Their steely-eyed leader Andrew Strauss form has tapered off since the start of the tournament and he has yet to find a stable partner at the other end. It is likely that England will promote Ravi Bopara to open with Strauss given how unreliable Matt Prior has been. Most of the runs have come from England s No 3, the ever-reliable and very durable Jonathan Trott, and much is demanded from Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan.

Critics might say that the England bowling attack is far inferior but that s a harsh assessment. Tim Bresnan is no Lasith Malinga but he s a very capable right-arm medium pacer. Bresnan has been Strauss go-to bowler all tournament and no one can question his commitment. He has had a scan on his calf after experiencing discomfort, but is expected to be available for the match on Saturday.

Graeme Swann has been consistent all tournament as well, ensuring he gets through his ten overs conceding no more than 40 runs and picking up a crucial wicket or three. James Tredwell proved a good option in the win over West Indies, while Chris Tremlett s disconcerting bounce and hit-the-deck style would be a handful. James Anderson, England’s most experienced fast bowler, was dropped for the West Indies match in Chennai, after some wayward performances but could come back.

Sri Lanka look the more dominant side. They don’t have a single player out of form, and the only concern for the hosts is over Muttiah Muralitharan s hamstring which, though making endless headlines is yet to cause him to miss a match. Their openers have each hit centuries, as have Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. England must get into the underbelly to reduce the risk of chasing a high total should Sri Lanka opt to bat.

Given that this match will be contested at the Premadasa, the side that wins the toss will want to bat and cross 240. That s proven to be a very good total more often than not a winning total – at this venue.

Teams:

Sri Lanka (probable): Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (c & wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Muttiah Muralitharan.

England (probable): Andrew Strauss (c), Ravi Bopara, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Matthew Prior (wk), Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, James Anderson.

Umpires: Billy Doctrove (West Indies) and Simon Taufel (Australia)

Time: 14.30 local (09.00 GMT)

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

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