Sri Lanka v West Indies, Final, World Twenty20, Colombo October 6, 2012

The right teams for a fitting finish

An intense tournament has produced two deserving title-contenders who promise a gripping finale

Sri Lanka are desperate to reward a decade of quality by winning their first major tournament since they surprised the cricketing world by claiming the World Cup 16 years ago; a West Indies win would bring hope in the Caribbean that Twenty20 can be the catalyst for their revival, just as the 50-over game inspired Sri Lanka to greater glories all those years ago.

For the neutral, yearning for a victory that will be good for cricket, there has rarely been a more difficult choice. Mahela Jayawardene, captain of Sri Lanka, deserves his intelligent and empathetic leadership of Sri Lanka to be recognised with a trophy after three near misses; Darren Sammy, a big-hearted captain whose affability has re-educated West Indies about the value of unity, equally deserves some reward for that.

Whatever the unpredictability of T20, few of those who have watched this tournament unfold doubt that Sri Lanka and West Indies are the appropriate teams to contest the final at Premadasa on Sunday. Sri Lanka, some seven-over nonsense against South Africa apart (10 overs, not five, should be the minimum length of a match) have been consistent, buzzy and well-drilled. West Indies, more strongly fancied in this tournament than they have been for a generation, have to no-one's great surprise provided a roller-coaster ride, domineering one minute, all at sea the next.

It has all been enormous fun. The malcontents who have seen their side crash out of World Twenty20, and who have lost interest as a consequence, need to recognise the narrowness of their thinking. What is there not to like about World Twenty20? For a few weeks, the best players in the world have been on show in an intense, tightly-scheduled tournament and, for all the unpredictability of the format, it has provided two deserving finalists.

The final promises many appealing match-ups but none will be more mouthwatering than Chris Gayle v Lasith Malinga. Gayle's commitment to batting long against Australia (how quickly our perceptions change that we can talk about "batting long" in T20) contributed to one the matures innings of his career and Australia, who had hoped that Mitchell Starc could expose him early, saw their plans frustrated. Sri Lanka will aim to keep Gayle on strike against Malinga as much as possible, but will want to save two of his overs for the death. It will be a key period.

This West Indies side is vulnerable. In their semi-final thumping of Australia, both Denesh Ramdin, at No.6, and Andre Russell, a place lower at No.7, look a place too high. Sammy, at No.8, has little form of note in the tournament. The pace attack amounts to the craft of Ravi Rampaul and little else, about as far away from the heyday of West Indies fast bowling as it is possible to be. But somehow they are in the final, their ability to muscle the ball many a mile leaving them brimful of confidence.

Sri Lanka's side covers more bases. They were not convincing champions at the start of the tournament, not to this observer at any rate. That was partly because no-one was certain that their less-celebrated players would perform as reliably as they have. But it was also because of the way that their achievement in reaching three finals in ICC tournaments in recent years was being represented not as a worthy reward for a side punching above its weight - which is how it should properly be viewed - but as a fatal flaw worthy of criticism. They have not allowed the high expectations to consume them.

Now Jayawardene is in his fourth ICC final for Sri Lanka. No current cricketer has graced the game more, nobody is more deserving of leading his side to victory. He has led Sri Lanka through difficult times, countering both the defeatism that could arise in a country that was bedevilled by a long war and the lack of an extensive infrastructure, and the small-minded political struggles that drained them further.

Throughout the hard years, Jayawardene and his close confidant, Kumar Sangakkara, have provided a stable environment in which young players could flourish, and have also shown Sri Lankan cricket the value of trust, integrity and sound planning. Jayawardene stood down from the captaincy and then dutifully took it up again when his work was in danger of being wasted.

Sri Lanka, because they have been more consistent, deserve to start slight favourites in front of their own fans. But all that could fly out of the window if Gayle and co. begin to launch the ball into orbit. Gayle has told the world that West Indies will win this tournament, and end years of suffering for Caribbean supporters, and it would be a foolish person who dares to tell him in advance that he is misguided.

We could be in for a treat. If the October monsoon stays away for just one more day, a successful tournament can have a memorable finale.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    @Marcio, thats how west indian cricket is....they are not consistence but they are very strong on their day they have best 6 hitters and some of best bowlers...they are on the final because they deserve to be.....but they normally not play well against sri lanka...but inconsistency doesn't mean they are a poor team....they are not another traditonal cricket team just everybody talks about everiday how trong they are.....that doubts and inconsistency with their passion makes them very loveble team....for me today is the only day i watch hoping gayle to get out at 0....just because I'm a Sri Lankan and I want our team to win....

  • Marcio on October 7, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    Must challenge this: "Few doubt that SL & WI are the appropriate teams to contest the final." It's suitable for SL, for sure, but the WI? Have I watched a different WC? They have been poor the whole tournament - struggled to beat Ireland (by 6 balls chasing 120), Eng (15 runs) NZ (tie - superover). They were getting thrashed by AUS b4 rain (1/100 after 9 overs); massacred by SL by 9 wickets in min overs. Their run rate was 6th-best in super 8s, 8th best in 1st round - amongst the worst. They had 1 great game in the semi. TBH I can't ever remember a team making the final of any format of the cricket WC having played so poorly for the vast majority of their games. How can you possibly write that this is one of the most deserving finalists? It gets my goat that given AUS' exceptional performance in 4 games that so much was written about their "limits & struggles" - but nothing at all about the WI's far bigger struggles & limitations. Why? SL is the only finalist deserving of the title.

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    For me, a strong West Indies is vital to world cricket, and so (as a neutral) I'm hoping for a West Indies win, although Mahela and Sanaga are 2 of my favourite cricketers. Let's hope for a good final.

  • Manoj on October 7, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    Pakistan beat Aus and they thought that they were the Champions but lost to SL and....... WI beat Aus and now they are thinking that they are the Champs and we will see after another 9-10 Hours.......

    What ever happens we as Sri Lankans are very very Proud of our Country & our team..... All the Best Lanka Lions....

  • Randy on October 7, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    Windies all the way, could be a great match here!!

  • Pad on October 7, 2012, 4:42 GMT

    Mystery bowlers and classy batsmen against Muscle power!! I'd go for SL, if the bowling attack hold their nerve and ball well... muscles wont have a chance... SL batting line up has more class to play well in whatever the pitch condition we'll see tonite...

  • Swaroop on October 7, 2012, 4:40 GMT

    Darren Bravo should come in for Russell or Charles. WI need someone with a decent technique against spin to make sure they don't implode against the Mendises or Dananjaya.

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2012, 2:25 GMT

    W.I is overrated... easy win for SL...

  • Amaan on October 6, 2012, 23:26 GMT

    to OsWood: Not all f us live in a fantasy world bro :)

  • Brian on October 6, 2012, 23:22 GMT

    WI will win. Pollard will continue where he left off. Gayle will do the same. Sammy can hit as hard as Gayle or Pollard and he's due and I think tomorrow he'll show it if the top order don't dominate first. DJ Bravo and Charles/D. Smith are awesome when they get going. Russell/Darren Bravo is capable of good support too and can blast the bowling too. When WI go into the final of a comp more often than not they win. Go WINDIES!!

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