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Delhi: Jos But­tler’s late car­nage and Sri Lanka’s crum­bling top-or­der en­sured Eng­land recorded a 10-run vic­tory at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. This is de­spite a near-heroic bat­ting ef­fort from An­gelo Mathews who dragged the game till the fi­nal over with his com­mend­able, un­beaten es­say off 73 from just 54 de­liv­er­ies. The vic­tory takes Eng­land to the last-four and brings down the cur­tains on Sri Lanka and South Africa’s cam­paign. Af­ter Joe Root and Ja­son Roy set Eng­land up, But­tler en­tered the stage and set it on fire with a 37-ball knock of 66, that in­cluded eight fours and two sixes. The big-hit­ting English­man pleased the Delhi crowd by flex­ing his mus­cles and, in the process, gave a glimpse of what he will bring to the ta­ble in the up­com­ing sea­son of the In­dian Premier League (IPL) for the Mum­bai In­di­ans, who snapped him up for INR 3.8 crore in the player auc­tion. A de­ter­mined Mathews was in no mood to throw in the towel and sent the Eng­land spin­ners on a leather hunt as he carted sixes at will. His vision and in­ten­tion to pull off an ex­cep­tional run-chase was shared well by Chamara Ka­pugedara and This­ara Per­era but the poor start by the top-or­der meant they were left far too many to get in the end.

Opt­ing to field on win­ning the toss, Mathews shared the new ball with Ran­gana Herath, as the 38-year-old wily spin­ner opened up Alex Hales with his first de­liv­ery, from round the stumps, that held its line. The Eng­land opener, who re­turned to the side af­ter nurs­ing a back in­jury, was trapped leg be­fore in the same over and trudged back to the hut for a four-ball duck. Root and Roy came to­gether to ride the spin wave as Mathews un­leashed Jef­frey Van­der­say, the leg spin­ner, from the other end. Roy par­tic­u­larly looked all at sea against the fuller de­liv­er­ies bowled stump-to-stump and the many variations, but sur­vived, to put away balls that of­fered him a bit of room to chance his arms. The spin­ners op­er­ated on a very small mar­gin of er­ror as Roy used his bot­tom hand well to play late on a few drives through cov­ers. Roy and Root did well to steer Eng­land clear of yet an­other bat­ting col­lapse as Sri Lanka con­tin­ued to knock on the doors for a break­through. When it even­tu­ally came, both the set bats­men walked back in the space of 17 de­liv­er­ies, fall­ing to Van­der­say. Eng­land then saw a brief lull of two overs as Sri Lanka looked to tighten the screws fur­ther. To keep out hit­ters of But­tler and Eoin Mor­gan’s rep­u­ta­tion, how­ever, was not go­ing to be straight­for­ward. Mor­gan took This­ara Per­era apart in an over that pro­duced 16 runs while But­tler carted three suc­ces­sive bound­aries off Chameera as Eng­land turned the tables on Sri Lanka again.

But­tler was par­tic­u­lar mer­ci­less as the Sri Lankan pac­ers erred in their quest to dish out york­ers and of­fered full tosses in­stead. Da­sun Shanaka, who was picked ahead of Nuwan Ku­lasekara, of­fered two more and the wil­low was du­ti­fully wielded to great ef­fect. The first was whacked over ex­tra cover for four while the sec­ond was sent soar­ing over long off for a six, al­low­ing But­tler to bring up a 28-ball fifty. But­tler fin­ished on a 37-ball 66 as Eng­land smashed 72 runs off the last 30 de­liv­er­ies to post a daunt­ing tar­get for the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons. - TNN

Jos But­tler.

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