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England’s final chance for a semi-final berth

Calcutta/Pallekele: With the race for the semi-finals nearing a thrilling finish, defending champions England face a must-win situation as they take on hosts Sri Lanka, who are unbeaten in the World T20 so far, in Pallekele Monday.

England, after a win and a loss, have to clinch it against Sri Lanka to have any chance of making the last-four stage.

If Stuart Broad’s men lose on Monday, and West Indies win against New Zealand in the day’s other match, it will the end of England’s World T20 campaign. The Sri Lankan team, on the other hand, are buoyed by healthy points on the board and are looking the most confident side in the tournament.

In the lead-up to the competition, captain Mahela Jayawardene was fidgety, to the point of being defensive when asked about the weight of expectations he and his team were operating under.

Through it all, as Sri Lanka have grown as a team, the manner in which the country has responded to its beloved team has changed.

As the tournament has gone by, the crowds at the grounds have swelled, and now, each time Sri Lanka take the field, it’s backed by 35,000 vociferous spectators whose enthusiastic cheering is cleverly orchestrated by the bands that have a finger on the pulse of the game. Darren Sammy, West Indies’ captain, felt the full effect of this on Saturday.

Jayawardene, who has insisted all tournament that his team should try and enjoy the atmosphere and occasion of playing in a world event at home, now sounds like he actually believes this is possible. What once was a source of extra pressure had now become an inspiration.

“We have enjoyed having the crowd behind us, and that’s part of the charm of playing at home,” Jayawardene said.