In the FIFA football World Cup, there are rungs of respectability for teams exiting the competition. You can suffer the ignominy of going out in the group stage, the round of 32, the round of 16; or you can have the tags of an honourable quarterfinalist, a worthy semifinalist or a deserved finalist attached to your name.
Cricket World Cup, in contrast, is a boom or bust tournament. The difference between teams finishing fourth and fifth is a semifinal place and a group-stage ouster. On Thursday, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Sri Lanka and England will clash with the singular aim keeping alive their hopes of the former.
Both Sri Lanka and England have lost three of their four matches thus far and sit seventh and eighth respectively in a 10-team World Cup. Keeping in mind the fact that they are yet to face table-topper India, neither can afford a loss.
England has to recover from a 229-run shellacking at the hands of South Africa. Its batting hasn’t clicked, skipper Jos Buttler has totalled less than 100 runs in four games and the bowling has been mauled by South Africa, New Zealand and Afghanistan alike. The feeling may well be that England can only go up from here, but it cannot take Sri Lanka lightly.
The island nation hasn’t lost to England in any of the four World Cup games since the turn of the millennium. Last week’s five-wicket victory over the Netherlands may not be ideal preparation for Sri Lanka, but it would have certainly banished the bad memories from three chastening defeats.
The last time England visited the Chinnaswamy for ODIs back in 2011, it lost a match after scoring 327 (Ireland) and tied a match by scoring 338. This World Cup, Sri Lanka has conceded 428 and 345-run totals. Another run fest looks likely and England would finally like to finish on the right side of it.
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