England, Lanka eye a spot in final

England, Lanka eye a spot in final

Mighty bat:  England captain Paul Collingwood inspects his bat on Wednesday ahead of the semis against Sri Lanka. AP

England and Sri Lanka have taken different paths to the semifinal. While the Englishmen lost just one game in the first phase in a rain-interrupted match, they have been unbeaten in the Super Eight stage, winning against Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand. On the other hand Sri Lanka, who lost their Super Eight match against Australia by a big margin, barely managed to make it to the semis after their last-ball win over India on Tuesday.

England have been well served by Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter at the top of the order while Pietersen was their lynchpin with two good knocks against Pakistan and South Africa. The right-hander skipped England’s match against New Zealand to be with his wife who was expecting their first child. But even in his absence, England proved quite handy against New Zealand, entering the semifinals as the top team from Group E. Offie Graeme Swann and left-arm spinner Michael Yardy have also been quite impressive.

Sri Lanka may not have been as impressive as a unit, but their win against India should have lifted their spirits. In the face of what looked a certain defeat, Kumar Sangakkara’s men showed great character while registering the thrilling win. On the batting front, Sanath Jayasuriya has been out of sorts, but Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara have looked good. The youngsters in the middle-order, led by all-rounder Angelo Mathews, showed the stuff they are made of in the face of adversity against India. “Everyone in the squad has to keep working hard and no one can sit back and relax as we have these young guys pushing everyone really hard,” said Sangakkara after beating India.

The Lankan bowlers may not be fearsome but on their day they can be tough to tackle as India found out. Lasith Malinga, Thilan Thushara and Thissara Perera were hard to score off as they came up with accurate yorkers and a nagging off-stump line to choke the Indian batsmen. If they can reproduce their efforts against England, the Lankans may just be in their second straight World T20 final.

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