'Everything is must-win now'
England will enter their clash with Sri Lanka in Bengaluru today barely above the bottom of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup standings with just 0.005 in net run rate separating the 2019 champions and last-placed Bangladesh.
Out of form and now without their leading wicket-taker at the tournament after Reece Topley broke a finger against South Africa, England are already at serious risk of falling out of the race for a semifinal spot.
A fourth loss in the tournament would most likely end their title defence before it truly began, and with India, Australia, and Pakistan among those still to come, this looms as a must-win fixture for England.
Moeen Ali, who is England vice-captain but was dropped after the opening defeat to New Zealand and has been sidelined since then, said Wednesday that "everything is a must-win now" as faltering defending champions England face a Cricket World Cup day of reckoning.
"We know we've been in this position before although probably not to this degree, but we know everything is a must-win," said Moeen.
"We have to get our confidence and perform well and bat and bowl and field better than we have done so far in this tournament."
England's lone win came against equally hapless Bangladesh.
They have lost to New Zealand, suffered a shock defeat to Afghanistan and then slumped to a 229-run thrashing at the hands of South Africa, conceding their highest total in a one-day international of 399.
Moeen believes England need to resort to the aggressive spirit of 2019 which took them to their memorable World Cup triumph over New Zealand at Lord's.
However, he insists he is not advocating adopting 'Bazball', the free-wheeling style of play which has virtually revolutionised Test cricket in England.
"Bazball is in Test cricket. One day cricket's different and we've been playing different all the time," he said.
"We've been playing aggressive cricket since 2015 and done it quite well.
"I think probably the lack of that way of cricket has probably cost us a little bit in this tournament.
"We haven't been playing that way in my opinion and I think we need to play that way, but without slogging the ball, but just be that really aggressive side that we know we can be."
The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru is familiar territory for Moeen as it is where he plays franchise cricket for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
"It's one of those grounds where scoring is quick and batting deep makes a big difference. If I get the nod, then I'm really looking forward to playing."
Injury-hit Sri Lanka have been just as underwhelming and have the same 1-3 record in this World Cup as England ahead of this high-stakes clash as the luckless outfit continue to be hit hard by injuries.
Star spinner Wanindu Hasaranga was ruled out before the tournament started, captain Dasun Shanaka has since been injured, and it has now been confirmed that emerging quick Matheesha Pathirana will also remain on the sidelines.
Veteran Angelo Mathews has been called into a squad that was in desperate need of experienced reinforcements and will boost the batting line-up if pulled straight into the starting XI.
Both sides have multiple issues to overcome to keep their faltering semifinal hopes alive, but with this essentially the first in a long stretch of do-or-die battles, time is running out for both teams to find the form that will be needed for a late surge.
*England hold a slight edge in head-to-head records in ODIs against Sri Lanka with 38 wins to the Lankans' 36 in 78 meetings, with one encounter ending in a tie and three matches producing no results.
*The Three Lions also have the upper hand in World Cup meetings with a 6-5 advantage but haven't been able to beat the Lankans in the tournament in their last four contests since the 1999 World Cup. This includes knocking England out of the quarterfinals in 2011 and a shock win over the eventual champions in the 2019 edition.
*England have played five times at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. They have won twice and seen as many losses, including the three-wicket loss against Ireland in the 2011 World Cup, at the venue. The Three Lions also recorded a tie at the ground with India in the same edition of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Lankans lost their only match at the venue in 1982 against India.
*Jos Buttler needs 90 runs to enter the 5000-run club in ODIs, while Joe Root needs 70 to complete 1000 runs in World Cups.