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The Preview by Andrew Fidel Fernando
April 2, 2014
Gayle: Haven't felt so good in a long time
Match factsThursday, April 3, 2014
Big PictureTwo things are certain in Thursday night's semi-final. One, the West Indies players will have the Mirpur crowd eating out of their hands; a jig, happy or otherwise, is likely. And two, Lasith Malinga will lead Sri Lanka - the confusion over the team captain being sorted hours before the toss, with Sri Lanka Cricket tweeting that Dinesh Chandimal had "opted not to play" in the semi-final.
When these teams clashed in the last World T20, the final had been a celebration of flair, but 18 months on, both teams have developed formulae with which to knead the talent at their disposal. West Indies have embraced conservatism with the bat, allowing Dwayne Smith to play as he wishes in the Powerplay, but generally seeking to keep wickets in hand to unleash at the back end. As the 82 runs in the final five overs of their innings against Pakistan proved, they have become increasingly adept at this through the tournament. With the ball, Samuel Badree and Krishmar Santokie have been as penetrative as they have been economical, thanks in part to a helpful Mirpur surface.
Sri Lanka have had among the most entertaining trips to the semi-final. They opened their campaign against South Africa who ch… errr, made poor use of a winning position under considerable pressure from the opposition. They brushed Netherlands aside before their bus driver had found a parking space. Then, having hit 189, they lost in dispiriting fashion to England, before orchestrating a rabid defence of 119 against New Zealand. In short, Sri Lanka have been like Pakistan.
Sri Lanka might have preferred a semi-final against Pakistan, because at least they understand how to counter Pakistan's style of cricket, to some extent. A peaking West Indies unit will cause more worry in their camp, particularly because the wounds of Marlon Samuels' game-breaking Premadasa assault will have barely healed over. West Indies will be confident they can take Lasith Malinga apart, as they did during that match, so the onus is on Sri Lanka to arrive at an effective strategy.
Form guideSri Lanka: WLWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightIf there is one man who can put Sri Lanka in the final through strategy alone, it has to be the team's best ever tactician, Mahela Jayawardene. He called the shots in the game against New Zealand, spreading fear in the hearts of opposition batsmen by placing a slip and short leg around them, and rotated bowlers masterfully. The whole thing made Sri Lanka fans nostalgic for the days of his leadership, when Sri Lanka played their most attractive cricket since the late '90s, and inspiring turnarounds against powerful opposition almost became the norm. He is also Sri Lanka's best big-match player in any discipline. He will be desperate for this match not to be his last in the format.
Darren Sammy has unequivocally been the best finisher of the tournament, to the extent that West Indies' game plan takes his success at the death for granted. He has come off in almost every game, and sits on a tournament strike rate of 224 and an average of 101. Sri Lanka will also remember the unbeaten 26 off 15 that pushed West Indies' total from competitive to commanding in the 2012 final, and more recently, the 30 not out from 14 that helped set up West Indies victory in a warm-up match. Sammy v Malinga has the potential to become the defining contest of the match.
Team newsWith Chandimal opting out, Lahiru Thirimanne may get a second game in the tournament. There is also a chance legspinning allrounder Sekkuge Prasanna could replace Thisara Perera.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Mahela Jayawardene, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Angelo Mathews, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Sachithra Senanayake, 10 Lasith Malinga (capt), 11 Rangana Herath
West Indies have all their parts in place, well-oiled, humming like a Lamborghini on a Sunday afternoon drive. Their XI is more settled.
West Indies (probable) 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Lendl Simmons, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 7 Darren Sammy (capt), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Krishmar Santokie
Pitch and conditionsPitches have become notoriously difficult to score on at this end of the tournament, particularly for teams batting second. Dew is less of a concern in Mirpur than it was in Chittagong. The weather is expected to be fine.
Stat and trivia
Quotes"Chandimal is a very exciting young cricketer. He has got an excellent cricket brain and he was chosen because of those factors. He had a tough time and people have been very quick to point it out."
"The offspinners are the ones who have got wickets against us so we don't mind their left-arm-spinner. Hopefully, we don't play him as the New Zealanders did..."
West Indies captain Darren Sammy does not think Rangana Herath will bother his team
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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