Sri Lanka Face England In Potential Decider
In-form Sri Lanka meet stuttering England in the World Cup Super Eights later on Wednesday and although the tournament still has a long way to go the clash could be crucial.
Pundits are predicting Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as the first three semi-finalists and with West Indies looking all but out, Wednesday's match becomes all the more important.
A victory for Sri Lanka would give them six points, level with high-fliers Australia and New Zealand who they still have to play in games they could easily lose.
A win for England would hoist them up to four points and assuming they go on to at least beat struggling Bangladesh and West Indies, Michael Vaughan's men would hope to finish above the Sri Lankans.
"If we are honest this is the start of our World Cup," England captain Vaughan told reporters.
"We know our performance levels need to improve to give Sri Lanka a really good game, they are looking a strong side in this tournament on these kind of wickets and we are going to have to play very well to beat them."
However, Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene is resisting the temptation to plot a course to the semi-finals.
"We are not worried about who is doing what. This is a tournament where I feel we need to take one game at a time," he said. "We have so many attacking options."
The last time the teams met Sri Lanka thrashed England 5-0 away but Jayawardene and Vaughan played down the significance of the 2006 series as England were without the injured Andrew Flintoff and Vaughan.
England will not name their team until the toss but Vaughan hinted Andrew Strauss could come into the side with the top order failing to impress so far.
Strauss, captain during the 5-0 drubbing last year, has not played in the tournament after being dropped following a miserable tour of Australia with the bat.
Sri Lanka are looking strong with Lasith Malinga's unusual slingy action helping him take four wickets in four balls in the narrow defeat by South Africa last week and Sanath Jayasuriya smashing 115 off 101 ball in the win over West Indies on Sunday.
Their only selection issue appears to be whether they play all-rounder Farveez Maharoof or fast bowler Dilhara Fernando.
The seven-week World Cup culminates on April 28 in Barbados.
(additional reporting by N.Ananthanarayanan)
© Reuters 2007.
By Mark Meadows