On the same night that they romped to the tournament’s highest powerplay total (66 for 0), they restricted Australia to a flatlining 21 for 3, just one run off their lowest ever total in the first six overs of a T20I (and with a fourth wicket falling one ball later). On the same night that Jos Buttler rained sixes into the Dubai stands in an innings of 71 not out from 32 balls, Australia had to wait until the 17th over to clear the ropes for the first time.
And despite coming into the contest with tournament figures of 4 for 35 in seven overs, Moeen Ali was not required to send down a single over, as Eoin Morgan manoeuvred his match-ups and kept his offspinner out of the hitting arc of the one Australia batter to survive the top-order cull, Aaron Finch.
It was another manifestation of the seamless – and seemingly bottomless – pool of white-ball talent that England have been able to call upon in recent years. How many other teams would be able to make light of the loss of such key campaigners as Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and, for the opening rounds at least, Mark Wood, and yet cover off their roles with a shrug and a rummage through a bag of other likely lads?
The success of Chris Woakes, Liam Livingstone, Moeen himself (hardly a first-choice in recent months) and Tymal Mills – for all that he took a bit of tap on Saturday – reinforces England’s standing as the No. 1 T20I team in the world. With three thumping wins from three, they are rapidly reclaiming the mantle of tournament favourites that they carried into their triumphant campaign at the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
England WWWWW (last five completed games, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLWWW
In the spotlight
There’s no real need for England to change a winning outfit, but their comfortable placement at the top of the group means that there’s a case for a bit of rotation to keep their options fresh. Wood is returning to fitness, and while his extreme methods may not be the ideal fit for Sharjah’s dimensions, he could yet come in for Mills, who had a relatively bruising outing against Australia. Livingstone’s parsimony as the third spinner reaffirms the sense of serenity to their current team balance.
England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (wk), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Liam Livingstone, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Tymal Mills/Mark Wood.
Sri Lanka have one win from three in the Super 12s so far, but they’ve put up a decent fight thanks to a settled batting line-up, powered by the explosive Asalanka and with Nissanka hitting his straps against South Africa too. Avishka Fernando is the one notable exception, with a total of seven runs in three Group 1 innings so far, and he may step aside for Dhananjaya de Silva. On the bowling front, Akila Dananjaya’s spin allsorts could come into the reckoning, after Kumara’s chastising final over on Saturday.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Pathum Nissanka, 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt.), 7 Chamika Karunaratne, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Dushmantha Chameera, 10 Maheesh Theekshana, 11 Lahiru Kumara / Akila Dananjaya
Stats and trivia
- England have won eight of their 12 previous T20Is against Sri Lanka, including three of their four meetings at T20 World Cups, and six in a row since their victory in Delhi in 2016, en route to that year’s final.
“That innings from Jos was pretty phenomenal. It was a pleasure to just sit there and watch a genius at work.”
Liam Livingstone was a touch star-struck after watching his team-mate’s matchwinning knock against Australia
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket