They become only the third team to defend a total in the Super 12s stage of this World Cup
This was the third time that this strip had been used since the start of the Super 12s, following Afghanistan vs Scotland and Pakistan vs New Zealand, and England struggled with the low bounce during the first half of their innings, creeping to 47 for 3 after 10 overs.
“We showed a lot of character,” Buttler told Sky Sports after England closed out the win. “Obviously conditions changed quite a bit and with Tymal picking up an injury as well, guys stepped up really well. Liam Livingstone was asked to bowl two tough overs there and picked up the key wicket of [Wanindu] Hasaranga.
“The dew was bad. That was one reason we bowled Adil [Rashid] out early, to give him the best chance to bowl with the ball as dry as we could. You don’t know if it [the dew] is coming or not. What’s pleasing for us today is that we didn’t have the best of conditions, which we probably have had in the three games before, and we still managed to show the character to get a win.
“It made the ball skid on a bit more,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I think especially in the first 10 overs of our innings, the ball sat in the wicket a little bit – there’s obviously very different bounce here in Sharjah to Dubai – and it was hitting the toe of the bat quite a bit. Maybe when the ball got wet, some of them skidding on a little bit more. It’s definitely a swing in the game so we’re delighted with the character we showed against those conditions to come through.”
Mills will be assessed by England’s medical team but the early signs were not promising. He headed straight to the dressing room after walking off the field, having immediately said the word “quad” and called for a substitute fielder. He has a chequered injury history and if the muscle is torn, he is unlikely to play a further part in the World Cup.
“I’m not sure our maths quite worked out there,” Buttler said of the decision for Woakes to complete his over. “We just felt with the short side there, we felt it was going to be a big three balls in the game: those two [Hasaranga and Dasun Shanaka] would have targeted Moeen in that situation.
“To be fair, we got the wickets which helped in his over. But with the long side, he was confident to bowl with a good field set. We put an immense amount of trust in the guys to ask Livi to bowl two overs there and for Moeen to bowl the 19th.”
England are not mathematically through to the semi-finals but their impressive net run-rate means that it would take a series of dominating wins for certain other sides for them to miss out on the knockout stages. Morgan hailed the contribution of Buttler, their top-scorer for the second game in a row, and said that his team were “delighted” with their start to the competition.
“Conditions did continue to change and obviously Tymal going down asked another question of ourselves, but I thought Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone stepped up unbelievably well to support the other guys with the ball,” Morgan said. “I can’t fault our guys tonight.
“I thought Jos Buttler played one of his best-ever innings in an England shirt. It was incredible to be at the other end and watch the ebb and flow, then the sheer dominance at the end. He really is one of the best in the game, a privilege to play with and great to have in our team.
“Sri Lanka pushed us further than we’d been pushed so far in the tournament. I think they’ve boxed above their weight so far in the World Cup so they should be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved, but we’re delighted with four wins.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98