Jos Buttler’s stunning century powers England to tense World Cup win over Sri Lanka

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Jos Buttler celebrates his century at Sharjah (Getty Images)
Jos Buttler celebrates his century at Sharjah (Getty Images)

Jos Buttler scored a simply sensational 67-ball century, his first in T20 internationals, as England were made to work mighty hard for a victory over Sri Lanka in Sharjah. Their place in next week’s semi-finals has been all but confirmed with a game to spare.

This was England’s first stern test of the tournament. For starters, they were asked to bat first, which has been a disadvantage so far this tournament. Buttler’s stunning hundred, completed off the final ball of the innings, powered them to 163.

Having been just 47 for three at the halfway stage, it looked a magnificent total. That sense was heightened when England took three wickets in the powerplay, two of them from Adil Rashid’s googly. That gutted Sri Lanka, and England won by 26 runs – although not without a fight.

For England, it was all about Buttler. He became the first England men’s player to register a century in all three international formats, and just the fourth to score a T20i hundred for them. After an extraordinary display of six-hitting against Australia, he is averaging 214 and striking at 154 in this tournament. He hit six fours and six sixes, and took just 22 balls to move from his fifty to his hundred.

The meat of his innings was a stand of 112 from 78 balls with captain Eoin Morgan – who became the most successful captain in T20i history with this victory – that helped England recover from a very tough start.

They had an unchanged team, but a changed kit. Due to ICC regulations, their clash with Sri Lanka’s navy trousers saw them switch to red slacks, although their pads remained blue, giving them a slightly village vibe.

Asked to bat first – never their preference – England soon found themselves in trouble, despite an excellent, risk-free first over from which they took 12.

Wanindu Hasaranga, the magician, dismissed Jason Roy with a googly his first ball to him, then did the same to Jonny Bairstow in his next over (via a brilliant review), for a golden duck. Between times, Dawid Malan was bowled by Dushmantha Chameera. The powerplay brought 36 for three.

The runs dried up, too. Having had 34 on the board after five overs, they added just 13 in the next five. Sri Lanka – especially their spinners – had strangled them, with Maheesh Theekshana conceding just 13 runs in four overs. Buttler had taken just 32 balls to make 71 against Australia on Saturday; this time, at halfway, he had 24 from 30. Morgan managed just seven from his first 18.

They needed to accelerate, and timed their run to perfection. Buttler hit the first ball of the innings’ second half through extra cover for four, signalling a shift in intent. In the 13th over, he struck the first six of the innings, as Sri Lanka, having bowled superbly, suddenly erred, looking too full. Buttler finished with six sixes and Morgan – who ended at better than a run a ball – hit three, too.

England celebrate the wicket of Charith Asalanka (Getty Images)
England celebrate the wicket of Charith Asalanka (Getty Images)

It was a welcome return to form for England’s captain, who fell in the penultimate over to Hasaranga. Moeen Ali, held back, joined Buttler, who still needed 13 for his hundred going into the final over. He scooped four, then hurried two twos (the second of which saw him missed by Sri Lanka for the first time, a drop at deep-square). Two dots followed, but he smashed a huge six over the legside to complete his century.

England’s score felt very defendable indeed, and even more so when Morgan and Buttler combined to sharply run out Pathum Nissanka in the first over of the chase, bowled by Moeen Ali. Charith Asalanka was aggressive, but Rashid’s googly saw him caught in the offside, and Kusal Perera followed in similar fashion.

Sri Lanka kept coming for England, who appeared to struggle a little with the dew (Chris Woakes dropped a catch off Rashid). But wickets for Chris Jordan and Woakes kept them in control.

The game became interesting, though, when three balls into the 14th over, Tymal Mills limped off with a quad injury. Morgan finished the over with Woakes, an interesting choice. Both captain Dasun Shanaka and Hasaranaga were set, and they feasted on the uncertainty until Liam Livingstone’s penultimate ball, when a fine relay catch on the long-off fence put England back in control. In the following over, Buttler pulled off a brilliant run out of Shanaka. Inspired fielding had saved England.

By the over’s end, Jordan had Chameera well caught at deep square-leg, then Moeen – bowling the 19th over – dismissed Chamika Karunaratne and Theekshana to complete the job.

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