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Mohammad Isam in Mirpur
April 3, 2014
Before the hail, lightning, gust and rain, it was Sri Lanka who were bossing it at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. Their fielding, bowling and decision-making pushed West Indies on the back foot for 13.5 overs of the chase.
Dinesh Chandimal's decision not to play in the semi-final can be seen as a defensive move, especially coming from the team's appointed captain himself. But it was daring of the man not to play, and let the winning combination stick. And it worked, with his replacement Lahiru Thirimanne hitting a crucial 44.
It was only fitting for Angelo Mathews, the only Sri Lanka player to have played all 17 games of a long stay in Bangladesh, to play a major role in taking them a stage they would have targeted when they landed in Bangladesh. And he was quick to praise Chandimal for stepping aside for the team's benefit, a rare occurrence but one that made complete sense.
"It was a collective decision," Mathews said. "The selectors, management and Chandimal [decided]. We have to do what is best for the team all the time, regardless of who you are. I think he opted out because he wanted the best XI on the park. So I think it was a great and brave decision."
For the second game running, Sri Lanka has showed the importance of bowling tight and backing it up with strong fielding. They have been doing it in Bangladesh since January 27, when they started their long sojourn in the country. They have been beaten the home side 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0 in the Tests, T20s and ODIs respectively as well as winning the Asia Cup. But despite playing 17 matches so far, Sri Lanka's fielding standards have hardly dropped and they have looked even better at the fag end of a very long tour.
Mathews praised the effort of his team-mates as well as the coaching staff for the unflagging levels. "It is all the hard work that the boys do. I think they have been managed pretty well. When you play the intensity every other day, it takes a lot out of you. You need to manage yourself and still work really hard.
"Fitness, fielding and skills, we were consistent in the last couple of months in these areas. It will be ideal to win the title and go back home."
After Sri Lanka posted 160 for 6, Dwayne Smith began with a bang, caning Nuwan Kulasekara for 17 runs in the first over. On cue, Sri Lanka started to bowl better lengths, drying up the runs. By the time Chris Gayle was put out of his misery in the fifth over by Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka had put a foot on the door that had started to slam on them. Smith was gone in the same over, and from then on, the fielding came to the fore.
West Indies are generally not the most athletic side between the wickets, preferring to dealing more in big shots. So it was important that the boundaries were cut off, and it started with Tillakaratne Dilshan in the eighth over when he slid to save a boundary, and repeated it in the 10th over. Apart from these two, there were several other mini-stops and slides that cut off whatever the West Indies were trying to add.
Mathews said it was important to pick up wickets when they got wind, quite literally, of rain nearing Mirpur. It prompted Malinga to bowl more in the first six overs, instead of keeping most of his quota for the death.
"After the first half, we heard there might be bit of rain. We just had to keep them tight because they have some big hitters who can't be stopped if they got going.
"We had to take wickets to push them back. Lasith came to bowl in the first six overs which he doesn't do normally, but we needed our best bowler to come and take wickets"
Sri Lanka could have been expected to be tired against New Zealand in their last group game and in the semi-final, but they sprung up at the right time and look on the way to a perfect ending to their stay in Bangladesh.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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