The rampaging Englishmen may target a 400 plus score, something they missed by just three runs two days ago against Afghanistan, when they take on the hapless Sri Lankans, but skipper Dimuth Karunaratne insisted they have tricks in the bag to restrict the hosts to less than 300.
“I think they have a good batting line-up so we know we need to defend less than 300," Karunaratne said, at a pre-match press conference here at the Headingley cricket ground. "We have to give them less than 300, so we have a couple of plans against the batters. And, you know, those are the things we are trying to do in the middle as well."
If they can do that, it would be a great achievement for Sri Lanka given the form and strength of the English batsmen who have consistently scored over 300 runs, barring one game, in the tournament so far. The wicket being prepared for Friday’s game also looks dry and good for batting. Sri Lanka’s bowling, but for Lasith Malinga and Isuru Udana who have done a decent job with ball, looks mediocre and doesn’t seem strong enough to restrict such a powerful batting line-up.
“We have to think out of the box," Karunaratne said. "Whether or not we have bowlers, we have to do something. So we have discussed what we have to do against England batters during the last few days. We played a home series against them last year and we have a couple of ideas on how to get them out. We need to work on these things in the middle."
Karunaratne credited the Englishmen for their adaptability against the spin.
“I think England is the best batting line-up against spinners in the world," he acknowledged. "If you take the Asian countries, England are playing better than them, so that is why we need to think about that, check the ground and what are the combinations we have going through for England game."
England’s batsmen ripped apart the strong Afghan spin attack, particularly that of Rashid Khan, a world leading spinner, scoring as many as 110 runs off his nine overs.
With four wins out of five, the hosts can all but secure a semi-final spot with a win against Sri Lanka but the islanders could delay England's march if their fragile middle order finds form. Players of the caliber of Angelo Mathews, the most senior batsman in the side, Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Mendis have all struggled to put runs on the board.
“I think if you take the middle orders, they have lots of experience," Karunaratne said. "They have proven enough for Sri Lanka and they did very well. Unfortunately, they couldn't get a start. If you take the middle-order, they couldn't get a start. That is why they really struggled and they don’t have confidence to do that. So, I told them to forget about the last few games and think of the four games left."
Karunaratne also said they could bring in hard-hitting top-order batsman Avishka Fernando to strengthen the batting order. If so, he is expected to bat at number three. “Sometimes, he will get a chance tomorrow, but we have not decided the side yet,” he observed.