Lankan lions storm into final
Spinners rule the roost as Jayawardene’s men defeat listless Pakistan by 16 runs
The hunter became the hunted on a fascinating day of battle between spinners.
Pakistan had ridden piggyback on the exploits of their plethora of spinners, none so more tellingly than against Australia that shut the door on India. On a raucous Thursday when the roars of home fans reduced a till-now-boisterous Pakistani support to nothing more than a whimper, Sri Lanka scored a popular 16-run win, scripted by their own set of tweakers, to storm into the final of the World T20 here at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Opting to bat first, Sri Lanka had struggled their way to 139/4, made possible only by skipper Mahela jayawardene’s sparkling knock (42, 35b, 7x4) at the top of the order and some slogging in the final over bowled by Umar Gul that took the total from being a modest one to competitive. A fortuitous Mohammad Hafeez (42, 40b, 4x4, 1x6), dropped by Lasith Malinga on 24, seemed to make Lanka pay dearly for their lapse but inspired change Rangana Herath (3/25) put paid to their aspirations. It was a bit surprising that Herath didn’t get the man of the match honours which went to Jayawardene.
Pakistan appeared to be making a steady progress to their target when left-arm spinner Herath delivered twin blows in the 15th over, removing Hafeez and Shahid Afridi off successive balls to decisively tilt the issue in Lanka’s favour. Earlier, a similar blow from Mathews, who had dismissed both the in-form Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal in the 10th over had provided Lanka a whiff of a chance in the match.
Lanka, in a way, exacted a sweet revenge for their defeat in the final of the 2009 edition in England. The hosts now await the winners of the second semifinal between Australia and the West Indies on Friday.
The one point of interest was if Jayawardene would be at the toss or designate a captain in his place like he did against England to escape a ban should there be another slow over-rate offence. Till Wednesday, he was non-committal about the move he was going to make but the right-hander put all the speculations to rest by walking in with his team list along with Hafeez.
Soon Jayawardene was sprinting in with his fellow opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (35, 43b, 3x4) after opting to bat first on a pitch where England and New Zealand’s women’s team were involved in a semifinal clash in the afternoon. While an effort ball did fetch bounce and carry, the powdery nature of the surface kept the spinners more than interested.
The difficult nature of the track made it mandatory that Power Play overs had to be made maximum use of. While Jayawardene was able to pick boundaries through innovative and conventional strokes, Dilshan struggled to keep pace with his partner. He couldn’t manage a strike rate of more than 50 in the first six overs, leaving Jayawardene with all the running to do. With spinners increasingly becoming difficult to pace the force against, Sohail Tanvir should have been targeted, but the left-arm seamer, a replacement for Abdul Razzaq, gave little away in three overs as Lanka could score just 34 during field restrictions.
Jayawardene fell in attempt to scoop the ball after which Kumar Sangakkara brought in the urgency that Dilshan needed to show. The stylish southpaw, however, fell soon failing to clear the long-on fielder. Dilshan’s struggles continued while Jeevan Mendis slackened after initial exuberance. In the end, it was Gul’s 16-run final over, in which Thisara Perera and Mathews collected three fours, that made the difference.
Jayawardene c Hasan b Afridi 42
Dilshan lbw Gul 35
Sangakkara c Malik b Hafeez 18
J Mendis c K Akmal b Ajmal 15
Perera (not out) 11
Mathews (not out) 10
Extras (B-3, W-4, NB-1) 8
Total (for 4 wkts, 20 overs) 139
Fall of wickets: 1-63 (Jayawardene), 2-84 (Sangakkara), 3-117 (Dilshan), 4-118 (Jeevan).
Bowling: Tanvir 3-0-11-0 (w-1), Hasan 4-0-26-0, Ajmal 4-0-33-1 (w-1), Afiridi 4-0-28-1, Hafeez 2-0-12-1(w-1), Gul 3-0-26-1 (nb-1, w-1).
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 34/0.
Hafeez st Sangakkara b Hafeez 42
(40b, 4x4, 1x6)
Nazir b A Mendis 20
Jamshed lbw Mathews 4
K Akmal c J’wardene b Mathews 1
Malik b Herath 6
U Akmal (not out) 29
Afridi b Herath 0
Tanvir st Sangakkara b A Mendis 8
Gul (not out) 2
Extras (LB-2, W-9) 11
Total (for 7 wkts, 20 overs) 123
Fall of wickets: 1-31 (Nazir), 2-55 (Jamshed), 3-57 (Kamran), 4-64 (Malik), 5-91 (Hafeez), 6-91 (Afridi), 7-113 (Tanvir)
Bowling: Mathews 4-0-27-2, Kulasekara 3-0-15-0 (w-2), Malinga 4-0-19-0 (7), Ajantha Mendis 4-0-27-2, Thissara Perera 1-0-8-0, Rangna Herath 4-0-25-3.
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 31/1.