World Twenty20: Pressure no problem for Yorkshire’s Joe Root as England eye semi-final spot

England's Joe Root bats against South Africa.
England's Joe Root bats against South Africa.
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Yorkshire’s Joe Root believes England are ready for their high stakes clash against Sri Lanka because they have been playing do-or-die cricket since day one of the World Twenty20.

Defeat in their opening fixture against the West Indies put them on the back foot from the off, making every remaining fixture crucial.

There are several permutations still possible in Group One, with England’s semi-final fate dependent on results elsewhere and, perhaps, net run-rate – a factor that does not favour them.

But England’s focus is clear: win in Delhi today and give themselves a chance.

“There is always pressure to perform. We know it’s a must-win game but it’s been like that since we got here,” said Root.

“For us it’s ultimately about winning our game. That’s all we can worry about because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to qualify.

“You can only really afford to lose one game and even then you can still crash out of the competition. It’s T20. It’s a complete knockout from here on in if we want to win it.

“The pressure is no more than it has been since that second game. It’s all about getting over the line.”

To achieve that England know they must improve on Wednesday’s display against Afghanistan.

Although a humbling defeat was averted, the Afghan spinners made short work of England’s top six, leaving serious questions over their reading of conditions.

Sri Lanka have a strong spin line-up of their own to unleash at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, led by the venerable left-armer Rangana Herath, and Root knows the trial by turn is one his side must combat better.

“It’s about learning from the mistakes we made last time in case we are on a similar pitch and face a similar attack with a lot of spin,” he added.

“Everyone has their own way of playing spin, there’s no right or wrong way, but for me it’s about trying to face as few dot balls as possible and trying to cash in with the boundaries when they are available.

“Every surface is different so it is about giving yourself the best chance on that particular pitch. Sometimes you might need to take a few extra balls to get accustomed to it, but ultimately it is about playing the situation in front of you.

“You still want to keep that intent, but there’s other ways of scoring quickly. Maybe you score down the ground a bit more, maybe knock it into gaps and look for twos.

“It’s about communicating that with the guy at the other end, watching the game if you’re coming in to bat and doing what you need to do to put a big score on the board or chase one down.”

Alex Hales missed out against Afghanistan with a sore back, but returned to training yesterday, even taking part in the traditional football match before nets.

That bodes well for his likely involvement, at the expense of James Vince, but the opener will face a fitness test this morning.

“He has improved,” said Root on Hales.

“We will get a good idea from how he will be on the morning of the game, but it is going to be important making sure he is absolutely ready.

““If not we have a strong squad and I am sure someone will fill in for him.”

England are all business-like now that the tournament is winding towards the business end, but Root joined team-mates Yorkshire David Willey and Liam Plunkett, along with Jos Buttler and Sam Billings on a road trip to the Taj Mahal on a rare day off on Thursday.

“Having the opportunity to do something like that and being only three hours away in a car, it was a no-brainer for me,” said Root. “Getting to experience a bit of India and see one of the wonders of the world was a really enjoyable day and something I’m really glad I did.”

n Bangladesh have one last chance to break their duck in the World Twenty20 Super 10s against unbeaten table-toppers New Zealand.

The Kiwis have swept all before them in three victories out of three so far, the last of which against Pakistan in Mohali on Tuesday confirmed their place in next week’s semi-finals.

While they were the first to reach the last four, Bangladesh have since suffered an agonising one-run defeat to pre-tournament favourites India and are therefore already eliminated from the tournament.

For them, today’s fourth and final Group 2 match in Kolkata is a chance to make a happier exit to what has been a vexed tournament.

New Zealand, by contrast, have few concerns and are determined to keep their winning run going for as long as possible.

Wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi anticipates spin, central to the Black Caps’ successful game plan so far, will again be key and is wary of the threat posed by the opposition attack too.

“We want to keep going with the form we’ve been showing,” he said.

“T20 cricket can be pretty fickle, and things can change pretty quickly, so we want to be doing the right things the whole way through.”