SYDNEY (AP): England advanced to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup and eliminated host Australia on net run-rate after its last over four-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Saturday.
New Zealand, England and Australia all finished with seven points from five matches in Group 1 but the Kiwis topped the group with a healthy net run-rate of 2.113. Australia paid the price for a heavy loss to New Zealand in the opening game and finished with at a net run-rate of -0.173. England had a net run-rate of 0.473.
Ben Stokes kept his composure and made an unbeaten 42 off 36 balls as England reached 144-6 in 19.4 overs after Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat.
Sri Lanka could not have advanced even if it had beaten England but the islanders squandered a blistering start of 52-1 in five overs before ending up at a disappointing 141-8. “We knew we had to find a way to win the game coming here today, so thankfully we did that,” England skipper Jos Buttler said.
England will face the Group 2 winner in the semifinals at Adelaide next Thursday. New Zealand will play the Group 2 runner-up at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday. “We go there (Adelaide) looking forward to whoever we play at what is one of the best stadiums in the world,” Buttler said.
Opening batter Pathum Nissanka braved pain on his twisted ankle and made 67 before England hit back through its spinners. Adil Rashid was 1-16 and fast bowler Mark Wood picked up 3-26 after being smacked for two sixes by Nissanka in his first over.
England sank Sri Lanka in the death overs when Nissanka holed out to long on in the 16th over and then Wood claimed three wickets in his return spell, allowing the islanders to score only 25 in the last five overs. Bhanuka Rajapaksa was one of the Sri Lanka batters to reach double figures before falling for run-a-ball 22 and offered a tame catch at mid-on in Wood’s last over.
“It was an amazing fight but still we could have done better in the batting part,” Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said as Sri Lanka bowed out of the tournament with two wins and three defeats. “We played good cricket in patches but we started with a few injuries so it cost us a good tournament. If the injuries were not there, we could have done better.”
England had an injury scare when Dawid Malan limped off the field after sustaining groin injury during the fielding. But England didn’t feel Malan’s absence with Alex Hales (47) and Jos Buttler (28) racking up 70 runs in the first six overs.
Sri Lankan premier spinner, Wanindu Hasaranga (2-23) ignited the collapse by removing both batters in his successive overs. Harry Brook and Liam Livingstone then fell cheaply and Moeen Ali offered a tame catch against the offspin of Dhananjaya de Silva (2-24) in the covers as England slipped to 111-5 in the 15th over.
But Stokes, promoted at No. 3 in place of injured Malan, kept cool with wickets falling around him and carried England home with two balls to spare.
The semifinalists from Group 2 will be determined on Sunday when all six teams will be in action. At Adelaide, South Africa needs a win against the Netherlands while Pakistan, whose progress depends on the results of other games, will be up against Bangladesh. India will then meet Zimbabwe at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.