England came into the World Cup as a rampaging side which puts up giant scores while batting first and knocks down huge targets while chasing. They were the premier ODI side and firm favourites to win their first World Cup and that too, on home soil. Well, guess what, all that has gone for a toss!
England succumbed to their second defeat in the event and that too, against the second-weakest team in the tournament – Sri Lanka. The biggest surprise in the performance of the Three Lions has been their ineptitude while chasing. This was supposed to be their preferred option. But their losses to Pakistan earlier and now Sri Lanka have proved that chasing is ten times tougher on the big stage of the World Cup than in bilateral series.
Chasing targets of over 350 may not seem all that difficult when there is only a match on the line and everyone can bat as per their instincts. But when the whole country is watching keenly and you are expected to achieve a glorious triumph, things become much more complicated. It is clear now that the supremacy of England in chasing is no longer existent. They are as vulnerable to succumbing to the pressure of going after a huge target as any other side.
Jonny Bairstow was done in by a typical Malinga yorker, James Vince's weakness while driving on the off side proved his undoing again. Joe Root was mighty unlucky and the same can be said, though with less emphasis about Eoin Morgan. While Root got a faint tickle on a delivery way down the leg side, Morgan was out to a brilliant reflex catch by the bowler Isuru Udana.
Jos Buttler was also undone by a Malinga yorker and Moeen Ali once again showed that he puts his brain away while batting. The left-hander hit a six and without any reason, decided to try and clear the long-off, only to give an easy catch to the fielder. Both Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid were undone by attempted cut shots against Dhananjaya de Silva. After that, England were behind the game and only Stokes stood in Sri Lanka's way. But he was like a solitary fielder holding the dam from collapsing. At one stage it looked as if Stokes is going to pull off a miracle but the dam eventually collapsed when the no. 11 Mark Wood edged the last delivery of the 47th over to the wicket keeper and the Lankans had a 20-run victory.
As things have panned out, if England were to play the World Cup final and Eoin Morgan wins the toss, he would in all likelihood, choose to bat first. Their performances against Pakistan and Sri Lanka also show that they have plenty of problems in their XI. The Morgan-led team no longer look a well-oiled machine ready to roll through to the trophy but one with some minor flaws that can be exploited.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka have shown that the Lions should never be taken lightly or written off. They made everyone eat their words by defeating South Africa in their own backyard earlier this year and now have made the best ODI team in the World eat dust. World Cup just got much more interesting.