Cricket World Cup 2019

Malinga magic rocks England's hopes of semis

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga took 4-43, including this wicket of England vice-captain Jos Buttler for 10 that set the hosts back at 144-5 in their 233 chase at Headingley, Leeds.
Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga took 4-43, including this wicket of England vice-captain Jos Buttler for 10 that set the hosts back at 144-5 in their 233 chase at Headingley, Leeds.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • England captain Eoin Morgan pulled no punches after the Cricket World Cup shock defeat by Sri Lanka put the hosts' semi-final chances in doubt.

Chasing what appeared to be an under-par 233 to win, the world's No. 1 one-day side fell 20 runs short because of a combination of rash shot selection and a failure to build substantial partnerships at Headingley, Leeds, on Friday.

A win would have all but secured a place in the last four. They must now win at least one of their final three matches against Australia, India and New Zealand.

Worryingly, they have not beaten any of them at a World Cup since 1992, although they did manage to draw with India in Bangalore eight years ago.

"You look at the basics of a run chase," said Morgan, who scored 21. "Partnerships are very important; we struggled to get enough partnerships going. We had a couple of individual innings but that's not good enough to win a game.

"We are going to lose games in the group stages. We didn't deserve to win today. When we get beaten we tend to come back quite strong, we tend to resort to aggressive, smart, positive cricket."

He rejected suggestions that the absence of Jason Roy was a factor. The opener has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury but told the BBC that he is aiming to be fit against table-toppers Australia at Lord's on Tuesday. James Vince has opened in his place but has failed to make an impression.

"I don't think it has at all," said Morgan, 32, who smashed a career-best 148 against Afghanistan in the previous match. "You look at the games we've played, we would love him in the side. He's a huge strength at the top of the order.

"But that's not why we lost or why we might have struggled on this wicket."

England's chase was hit early by veteran paceman Lasith Malinga (4-43), who became the fastest to 50 wickets in his 26th Cup match, ahead of compatriot Muttiah Muralitharan and Australian Glenn Mcgrath (30 matches).

To think that the 35-year-old was stripped of the captaincy before the Cup and briefly returned home earlier in the tournament following the death of his mother-in-law.

He accounted for Jonny Bairstow, who suffered his second golden duck of the Cup, and Vince (14) Joe Root (57) and Jos Buttler (10) as the hosts were bowled out for 212. Ben Stokes top-scored for them with his unbeaten 82.

England's fourth loss to Sri Lanka in four Cups will reinforce doubts over their ability to adapt to the demands of low-scoring affairs in high-pressure situations, similar to their 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final loss to Pakistan.

"England have not played with any smartness," said former captain Michael Vaughan, commentating for BBC Radio. "The game was won when Moeen Ali hit a six and he tried to hit another."

It was an especially worrying sign given that the all-rounder, 32, was appearing in his 100th match at this level.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 23, 2019, with the headline 'Malinga magic rocks England's hopes of semis'. Print Edition | Subscribe