Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

Ten months ago, Chris Silverwood was in an England camp left feeling incredibly glum in Australia. On Saturday, and now on the outside, he could play a role in history repeating itself.

Back in January, Silverwood was England head coach – and an under-fire one at that after an error-strewn Ashes campaign had concluded with a humiliating 146-run defeat in Hobart, a loss which condemned the tourists to a 4-0 series hammering.

Come early February, Silverwood had been sacked. Come early April, he had been named Sri Lanka head coach. If things had turned out differently, the Yorkshireman could have been leading England in the T20 World Cup. Now, he could help knock them out of it.

If at least one of Australia and New Zealand lose their final Super 12 game on Friday (New Zealand play Ireland before Australia meet Afghanistan), that will open up the door for Sri Lanka to reach the semi-finals – provided they beat England in Sydney a day later, a result which would almost certainly eliminate Jos Buttler’s side.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Watch highlights as England reignited their T20 World Cup semi-final hopes with a 20-run win over New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday

The SCG was the one Australian stadium last winter where England were not left feeling miserable, having battled their way to a whitewash-avoiding draw with Australia unable to dislodge either of the tourists’ last-wicket pair, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

But Silverwood’s Sri Lanka side have the talent to leave England feeling sick in Sydney this time around. They will be the underdogs for Saturday’s T20 but they will be no pushovers.

Sri Lanka show fight and test the big boys

Since Silverwood took over in the spring, Sri Lanka have not lost a Test or ODI series – a 3-2 50-over series victory at home to Australia was a real highlight – while they won the T20-format Asia Cup in September, recording one win over India and two against Pakistan.

They have also proven themselves able to deal with a setback. In that victorious Asia Cup campaign, Sri Lanka lost their opening game to Afghanistan before rallying to win five in a row.

Wanindu Hasaranga (Associated Press)
Sri Lanka lost their first match at this year’s T20 World Cup, against Namibia, before rallying to reach the Super 12 stage

In this T20 World Cup campaign, they started off with a shock defeat to Namibia before rebounding to win three on the trot.

Then, after successive defeats to Australia and New Zealand last week, they battled back again to beat Afghanistan and keep their semi-finals hopes alive, for the time being at least.

The losses to Australia and New Zealand were by a large margin in the end – seven wickets and 65 runs respectively – but Sri Lanka certainly had their moments in both matches.

Australia were labouring at 89-3 in the 13th over in a chase of 159 before Marcus Stoinis blasted a 17-ball fifty to take his side home.

Sri Lanka would then have reduced New Zealand to 29-4 last weekend had Wanindu Hasranga not dropped Glenn Phillips on 12 at long-off in the seventh over. Phillips went on to blast 104 from 64 deliveries to propel the Kiwis to a winning 167-7.

Chris Silverwood (Associated Press)
Silverwood watches on in despair during Sri Lanka’s defeat to New Zealand last weekend

Hasaranga among those to star for Sri Lanka

Fielding has often proved a problem for Sri Lanka in this tournament but Hasaranga has proved likewise for opposition, with the leg-spinner bagging 13 wickets in seven games at an average below 14 and an economy rate of 6.51. Off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana has been impressed, too – nine wickets at an economy rate below seven.

On the seam-bowling front, Sri Lanka have been beset by injuries. Dilshan Madushanka (quad) was ruled out on the eve of the tournament, Dushmantha Chameera (calf) broke down after playing two games; and Binura Fernando, himself a replacement for Madushanka, then sustained a hamstring injury against Australia.

Sri Lanka are not at full strength in that department, then, but keep an eye on Lahiru Kumara. He can bowl quickly and with hostility and generates movement, too. He is wayward at times but when he gets it right, he is a real menace.

Lahiru Kumara, Sri Lanka (Associated Press)
Sri Lanka seamer Lahiru Kumara could give England’s batting line-up a tough test in Sydney on Saturday

Batting-wise, Kusal Mendis has notched two fifties and Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva one each, with Dhananjaya’s unbeaten 66 coming against Afghanistan earlier this week.

Then, in the dugout, there is Silverwood.

While he may very well want England to win this tournament if Sri Lanka don’t, there will surely be at least a dash of satisfaction if he can dump his old team out nine months after they dumped him.

Watch England vs Sri Lanka, in Sydney, live on Sky Sports Cricket on Saturday. Build-up begins at 7.30am ahead of an 8am start.

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.