BEN STOKES kept his cool and led England to victory over Sri Lanka and a place in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup.
Stokes stayed strong during a dramatic England meltdown that turned what appeared to be a cruise to victory into a pair of tense final overs.
The Durham all-rounder didn’t finish 42 from 36 balls as England beat Sri Lanka by four wickets and two balls remaining.
So England are eliminated from Group 1 of the Super 12 on a net run rate and their semi-final will be played in Adelaide on Thursday – most likely against India.
Their victory has the delicious added bonus of beating hosts and reigning champions Australia from their own tournament.
Stokes has a relatively poor record for England in T20s but there are few better in tight situations in must-win games.
He was promoted to No. 3 because Dawid Malan pulled a groin muscle in the field and don’t forget Stoke’s fielding was superb and his bowling came in handy at the tournament – despite his wobbly right knee requiring heavy straps.
Openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales broke England’s comeback to win 75-0 after 7.1 overs, but on a used field Sri Lanka’s spinners began to cause problems.
England lost 111-5 and then 129-6, with the middle order self-destructing and Malan unable to bat due to his injury.
England needed five from the final and Chris Woakes completed the job with a square cut to the limit.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP OFFERS – THE BEST DEALS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
Captain Buttler said: “It got a little tight at the end. I’m not a big viewer so I didn’t enjoy it much. We had to find a way to win the game and luckily we did it.
“It was the kind of situation Ben Stokes is made for and while he was at the crease we had a sense of calm. He can play many roles – he affects the game in all three facets and he is a real competitor.
“As we get to the later stages of the competitions, you’ll see him grow and grow.”
Sri Lanka chose to bat because they believed it would become more difficult to bat on the surface. And they got off to an electric start when Pathum Nissanka lifted the second ball of the innings for six.
Then Kusal Mendis put Mark Wood’s opening throw in the stands and Nissanka sliced off the last ball of the Durham speedster’s first over for another maximum.
Sri Lanka ran very well, 65-1 from seven overs. But their innings fell apart after that, with 76-7 from their last 13 overs and 25-5 from their last five.
Wood’s first over cost 17 runs but he finished 3-26 while Adil Rashid, who was recently out of shape, showed encouraging signs of returning to form with 1-16 from his four overs.
Rashid also equaled Chris Jordan’s record of 90 wickets for England in the men’s T20s.
When Buttler and especially Hales flashed the start of England’s response, the game looked over. The 70 runs they looted in the first six overs was the highest power play score of the tournament.
But poor shot selection undermined England’s innings including Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali.
Stokes stayed, and while it wasn’t as epic as his innings at England’s 50-over World Cup final in 2019, it was further evidence of determination and mental resilience against the white ball.
Sri Lanka coach Chris Silverwood, who was sacked by England after beating Ashes 4-0 last winter, added: “I wish England the best of luck – I have so many friends in their camp.
“There are many good players in this England dressing room but Ben was their talisman. Getting England over the line will do a lot for his confidence.”
Here’s how the action unfolded on our live blog…
Ben leads England to success
When the moment comes, the man comes.
Ben Stokes came on when his side needed him most today.
The semifinals await Jos’ England
England now travel to Adelaide where they play their semi-finals.
Adil Rashid was named man of the match today.
Rashid ends up with a count of 1/16 from his 4 overs.
Woakes beats England to the semifinals
Needing 2 runs from the last 3 balls, Chris Woakes opened his blade to play the ball backwards off the square, racing the ball all the way to the limit.
After snapping out of the traps for the first 10 overs of the game, England appeared to be struggling to lead the chase.
With the wickets falling at regular intervals, there were a few worried faces on the England bench.
Woakes and Stokes were able to see Joss Buttler’s team through to the semifinals.
England 137/6 (19 overs)
England are looking for running opportunities wherever they can find them now.
Not a good time to throw a full pitch as Stokes hits him towards the border, there’s a fielder there so just the two runs.
This has relieved England of some very loose supplies.
England need 5 runs from the last over.
England 129/6 (18 overs)
The very last ball of the over, a slower ball that follows Curran down the side of the leg.
He wants to make it big and gets stuck on the fine leg line.
England will certainly not throw that away now.
13 runs of 12 balls required.
Wicket – Sam Curran (England)
England 127/5 (17 overs)
Maheesh comes back to try to make a difference.
Sri Lanka wants to attack now.
England still seem content to work the ball for runs rather than go for the big hits.
15 balls out of 18 now required for England.
England 121/5 (16 overs)
After the start England made, nobody expects such a tense ending.
Credit to the Sri Lankan players, they didn’t give up and made their catches in the field.
21 runs are needed from 24 balls.
England 113/5 (15 overs)
England certainly won’t mess that up.
Sam Curran comes into play under pressure.
Sri Lanka feel like they are back in this game.
All of Australia is sitting on the edge of the seat.
Wicket – Moeen Ali (England)
England 110/4 (14 overs)
Moeen Ali comes on for England.
You run the risk of tearing defeat from the jaws of victory.
32 needed out of 36 balls.
Wicket – Liam Livingstone (England)
England 106/3 (13 overs)
One could argue that Sri Lanka should have had another 30 odd runs from their innings.
Had they scored that goal, England would now be in a difficult situation.
Instead, they can just nudge the ball around.
England 98/3 (12 overs)
If Sri Lanka can pull off a few more breakthroughs, it will be a matter of serious concern for England.
They are now trying to push the ball around because they know they only have to run one ball.
Only 5 runs from the end.
England 93/3 (11 overs)
Brook somehow gave away his wicket there.
Bad shot by the English batsman.
If they’re not careful, they run the risk of letting Sri Lanka back into this game.
Wicket – Harry Brook (England)
England 86/2 (10 overs)
What a comedy of mistakes it was.
47 doesn’t get out and Hales wants the big sweep.
It hits the toe end of the bat and chips back to the bowler.
The second ball in and Brook tries to reverse the sweep.
Very happy not to see one hit the stumps.
Wicket – Alex Hales (England)
England 82/1 (9 overs)
Dhananjaya comes to bowl.
I want to move something with a little more spin.
6 runs come from the over.
England 76/1 (8 overs)
Wanindu Hasaranga pushes you up and Buttler goes after him.
Chamika gains some ground on the field and makes a great leg-side boundary catch in deep mid-wicket.
Stokes comes in third after Malan appears to have pinched his groin on the field.
Wicket – Jos Buttler (England)
England 74/0 (7 overs)
Maheesh continues his spell and his third over.
Buttler works off his legs for a single.
3 runs from the over by Maheesh.
England 70/0 (6 overs)
England is slowly picking up speed now.
Rajitha now wants to get some of these two.
Sri Lanka uses a recension for what appears to be Hales hitting the ground on his way.
Wasted review of Sri Lanka.
20 runs from the last over of the power play.
England 50-0 (5 overs)
Wanindu Hasaranga comes on for Sri Lanka in attack.
Good footwork from Buttler gives him room to put the ball through the covers for a four.
The English skipper finishes the over with a big six.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6591589/england-sri-lanka-t20-world-cup-stokes/ Ben Stokes stays cool despite meltdown as England scrape past Sri Lanka to reach World Cup semi-finals and knock out Australia