England confident with win over ‘very tricky’ Sri Lanka enough for World Cup semi-final place

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England can focus solely on beating Sri Lanka at Sydney on Saturday to reach the T20 World Cup semi-finals after being given a helping hand by Afghanistan.

A heavy Australia win over Afghanistan at Adelaide on Friday night might have meant England keeping tabs on net run-rate permutations in their bid to finish in the top two of their Super 12s group.

While Australia moved into second place and level on seven points with New Zealand, the hosts were restricted to a four-run victory over an Afghanistan side coached by ex-England batter Jonathan Trott.

That means an England win by any margin will be enough to go back above the defending champions and progress alongside the Black Caps, who are favoured to finish top due to their superior net run-rate.

However, on a pitch that could prove receptive to spin at the SCG, with Sri Lanka able to call upon the talented duo of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana they are not a team to be taken lightly.

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Alex Hales, who became the first England batter to record a T20 international century in 2014 against Sri Lanka, recognises as such but feels his side has the firepower to combat whatever is thrown up.

“They’re always a very tricky side and they’ve got some handy operators,” Hales said. “We’re going to have to play our best cricket to win. But we’re pretty confident and the mood is good in the camp.

“I feel like we can deal with anything that’s ahead of us. We have a very confident batting unit and I think we’ll be able to adapt to whatever we need.

“On a personal level, to have a chance to play knockout cricket in a World Cup would be a very special feeling. As a group it will be, too. It’s a pretty tight competition and to get through is difficult.

“You have to beat some very good teams along the way. It would be a good achievement if we can get through, in a pretty tough group in my opinion.”

Since coming back into the England fold in September after a three-and-a-half-year absence, Hales has registered three fifties in 12 T20s, averaging 24.66 with a strike-rate of 136.4 in that time.

While there have been five single-figure scores as well, England have won every time Hales has reached a half-century, with his 52 off 40 balls crucial as they edged out New Zealand at Brisbane on Tuesday.

“It’s been sort of on and off for me personally,” Hales said. “There have been a few low scores in there as well as some high ones. Hopefully I can find a bit more consistency going forward.

“Something I’ve done well over the last few years is few single-figure scores and more contributions. I felt in good touch the other night, hopefully I can keep that going in the rest of the tournament.”

Hales was preferred to Phil Salt as Jos Buttler’s opening partner at the outset of England’s tour of Australia, largely due to his impressive body of work in several seasons at the Big Bash League.

But the BBL takes place during the height of the Australian summer while the World Cup has been contested in the spring, with damper and cooler conditions bringing swing and seam into the equation.

“I think the numbers at the top of the order throughout the tournament have been probably lower than what you usually expect,” Hales said. “They’ve slightly been different to what I’ve been used to.

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“It’s probably not what we expected here but I guess with it being spring and all the rain that has been around, there was always going to be a bit more swing and seam. I think the biggest thing is to be adaptable.

“I’ve had to hang in there at times and piece together a contribution the other night, but the weather looks a bit better going forward, so hopefully the pitches will get better as well.”

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