AGENCIES

CHITTAGONG-If you wanted to end a winter of discontent with success in a Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh, and had a choice of opposition, Sri Lanka would be the last pick. Yet, this is exactly whom England are up against Thursday in its bid to make it to the final four of the ICC World Twenty20 2014.

To say England have endured a bleak winter is understating things. In 20 games across all formats, it has managed just four wins, racking up 16 losses. What’s worse, its history against Sri Lanka in this format is hardly encouraging, with its only win against this opponent in four attempts coming at the World T20 in 2010 in St Lucia. Add to the mix the fact that Sri Lanka are currently the team ranked No. 1 in the format, while England are seven spots below, just above Ireland, and you have a contest where one team goes into the game overwhelming underdogs.

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal was either unaware of this background, or plain uninterested, when he stuck to the line that his team was not underestimating any opposition, this after flattening the Netherlands for only 39. “England are a good T20 side and we have special game plans for them. We never underestimate England,” said Chandimal. “They have quality T20 specialists like Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales, and we will have to have specific plans against them. But, we do have something up our sleeve.”

When asked if he thought his team could replicate the kind of dream bowling performance that shot the Netherlands out for only 39, he allowed himself a cheeky grin. “We have been bowling well, sticking to our strengths when it comes to bowling,” began Chandimal. “Getting bowled out for 39, it happens sometimes, not all the time, in cricket. But, who knows, if we stick to our strengths, it can happen in the next game also.” He acknowledged that his team was in kissing distance of sealing a spot in the final four. Major credit for that went to the momentum generated by winning early, he said.

If England was gutted at losing to New Zealand with only 5.2 overs being possible in a big chase, it was doing best to put that setback behind it and focus on what it needed to do to keep its hopes alive in the tournament. “Obviously we were very unfortunate with the way we lost the other day, there was a long way to go in that game. Chasing 170-odd is tough in any T20 game. They had a good start but we would have backed ourselves to defend it,” said Ravi Bopara. “The belief is still high in this team, we've done a lot of good things in the last few games. Although we haven't won a lot of games the boys are getting better at their skills.”

South Africa aim for big win over Netherlands: South Africa would look to boost their net-run-rate with a big win against struggling qualifier Netherlands in a Group 1 Super 10 match of the ICC World Twenty20 on Thursday. After scraping to a narrow two-run win over New Zealand, riding on heroics of Dale Steyn, South Africa now have a chance to improve on the negative net run-rate (-0.075) as they are unlikely to be challenged by the minnows.

With one defeat and a win, South Africa are placed third with two points and it is their chance to move up before they face more serious challenge in England on Saturday. New Zealand too are on two points with similar results but they are placed second due to a better NRR (+0.276). South Africa have a formidable batting line-up and a decent bowling attack, which makes them one of the most balanced teams in this tournament.

South African paceman Dale Steyn admitted the mood was different after a narrow two-run win over New Zealand. "I think the camp would have been completely different for us had we lost the game (against New Zealand)," said Steyn, who defended seven runs in the last over. "We lost the first and won the second, so its going to be like a win (means) everything from now on."

The Netherlands captain Peter Borren vowed his team will show improvement. "I look at our top order and we have guys there who can really play and have played at this level and done fine before," said Borren, whose team remarkably beat much fancied Ireland by chasing 190 in under 14 overs to qualify for Super-10. "I know this team can play, I believe in this team and I hope we  can show that in the next three games. It certainly won't be a case of damage limitation.