SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Jos Buttler hit a terrific maiden Twenty20 century and propelled England to a 26-run victory over Sri Lanka in the T20 World Cup on Monday.
The fourth successive win meant unbeaten England was the firm favorite to top the group and make the semifinals next week with one last group game left against South Africa on Sunday.
Buttler’s unbeaten 101 off 67 balls powered England to 163-4 after Eoin Morgan’s top-ranked T20 team had successfully chased down small totals in its last three Super 12 games.
Sri Lanka was bowled out for 137 in 19 overs, but it had the result in the balance until the 17th over, when the last five wickets suddenly began evaporating for just eight runs.
“I found it really tough early on,” Buttler said. “I managed to get a really good partnership going with Morgs and we tried to attack the back end. We were finding the spin bowlers a bit tricky and thought 120 might be a good score.”
The win was significant for Morgan, who returned to form with a knock of 40, and also became the world’s most successful T20 captain with his 43rd win.
Afghanistan's Asghar Afghan, who retired from all forms of the game on Sunday, held the previous record of 42.
Wanindu Hasaranga, 34 runs off 21 balls, had Sri Lanka in the hunt while the dew was making things difficult for the England bowlers. But when he fell to a superb relayed catch between Jason Roy and Sam Billings on the edge of the boundary in the 17th over, the collapse started.
Moeen Ali (2-15) and Rashid Khan (2-19) were miserly and Chris Jordan also bowled a decent four overs to finish with 2-24. Offspinner Ali perfectly filled the shoes of the injured Tymal Mills in the death overs as the fast bowler had to go off after pulling his right quad.
Legspinner Hasaranga (3-21) had earlier used his experience of playing two previous games on the low bouncy pitches of Sharjah Cricket Stadium to help peg back England to 47-3.
But Buttler waited patiently for the seamers to return and batted more fluently after scoring his half-century off 45 balls.
Morgan struggled to get going against the spinners, but hung in with Buttler in a match-winning partnership of 112 runs as the batsmen cut loose against the fast bowlers.
Pacemen Dushmantha Chameera (1-43) and Lahiru Kumara (0-44) missed their lengths as Buttler completed his 100 with his sixth six off the last ball in an eventful 20th over, during which he was dropped on 95. Buttler now has international centuries in all three formats.
Sri Lanka was all but out of semifinal reckoning after losing its third game out of four.
“The bowlers have been outstanding in the first 10 overs, (but) it’s been a concern for us at the back end in every game,” Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka said. “For most of the guys, it’s their first World Cup and the experience is very low. When they gain more experience, they will do good for the team.”
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