England v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20, 1st Semi-Final, St Lucia May 12, 2010

Sri Lanka hope for spin threat

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Sri Lanka left it late to secure a place in the World Twenty20 semi-finals but now they are in the knockout stage their varied bowling attack could hold the key to success. Although without the services of Muttiah Muralitharan they can still throw the ball to Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis, who was left out of the final Super Eight match, and youngster Suraj Randiv.

Mendis has a strong chance of returning to face England who have seen little of his variations. The one occasion he has played against them was in the Champions Trophy last year when England thwarted him effectively at the Wanderers during a successful run chase as he went wicketless in nine overs. However, facing Mendis on a spring day in Johannesburg is a very different proposition to facing him on a low, slow surface that has aided spin in St Lucia.

Kumar Sangakkara was keeping his cards close to his chest, but it will be hugely tempting to use Mendis against a team that, even taking into account their impressive form, have a poor history against mystery spin.

"We'll have to have a think about that, how that works with our combinations and batting. We would love him to play," Sangakkara said. "I think he's a top quality spinner and England's probably played him once. It's a realistic possibility but we've got other spinners, even part-timers who are pretty good."

But he isn't the only threat. Malinga, like a few of the big-name Sri Lankan players, hasn't quite been at his best in this tournament but with the sudden death stages now here he can be the ultimate matchwinner. He was impressive against India where his 2 for 25 played a key role in restricted a late-order charge and Paul Collingwood is certainly on his guard despite the strong form of England's top order.

"A few of us have played against them. But it is obviously a little slight concern," he said. "Quite a lot of the guys haven't played against the angle of Malinga, his skiddiness, his change-ups - and not many of us have played much against Mendis.

"When guys are bowling 24 balls at you, you can't give yourself six or seven to get yourself in against them. That's one of the things we need to make sure we overcome; we need to watch as much footage as possible and talk about it between ourselves. That's another great thing, that we are communicating really well. Players who have played against them are passing tips on to the other guys, and I think that's helping a lot."

England haven't seen anything of 25-year-old Randiv but despite playing just three Twenty20 internationals he is highly regarded by the Sri Lanka hierarchy. He started life as a pace bowler before finding offspin was his vocation and despite not possessing the variety of Muralitharan and Mendis he can still be a handful as he showed against Australia.

"The one thing Sri Lanka have got is that they are quite unorthodox in terms of a lot of the bowlers. That is something the batters will have to come up against," Collingwood said. "But we have a lot of strength in our side now so as much as we will prepare for Sri Lanka and the kind of unorthodox styles that they do have we also have to remember our strengths as well and I think there are plenty of them in our side as well."

Sangakkara, while acknowledging how well England have played over the last week, remained confident that conditions would suit his attack. "We would like to think so, we've got a lot of variation in our bowling attack. We will try to exploit that in these conditions but we've got to think of all the angles.

"We are trying to concentrate a lot on what we do best and how we can get England reacting to us with our bowling, our field-placings and our batting," he added. "It's going to be about how we exploit the conditions to our strengths."

Semi-finals of major tournaments can be won with a little bit of magic and Sri Lanka have players who can produce such moments.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Deepfreezed on May 13, 2010, 16:26 GMT

    what a useless team SRI is. All the opponents needs in someone that does above 140Kmph.

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 16:20 GMT

    I think it will be AUS and England Final. England looks very good to win championship for the first time so does red hot Australia. But you never know with depleted Pakistan team if they pull a miracle by beating Australia than England will be a walk in the park for Pakistan. all in all any one of the three has a chance. Only SL looks very weak

  • cric-kaka on May 13, 2010, 14:14 GMT

    I like SL but ENG has played well. However in T20 things are unpredictable to say the least and especially in the KO stages. I would pray for SL to provide that magical performance.

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 14:08 GMT

    hallo cricket is very tuff balance leveler game >>so if s/lanka still in his murli days then be aware of p`cwood;& company they are good players of spin>as always k.p`son is trump card ;if they click 10 balls of spin then be ready 4 blast all the way>>watch out mr k s`kara <<<very tricky situation >>>

  • Kushh on May 13, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    Sanath has lost his eye sight. its like watching a blind man batting. Shame on u sanath ! for letting politics, not performance carry ur place in the team

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 13:52 GMT

    Me thinx England dont have much chance against Srilanka. England were hardly impressive without Pieterson against Pakistan, they can do well against NZ or out-of-form SA.

  • SenorPepper on May 13, 2010, 13:44 GMT

    I hope that after this tournament the Sri Lankan selectors will take a long hard look at Sanath Jayasuriya. I understand that he is in better shape - always has been - than some of the 'youngsters' in the team and if one would listen to the incessant chirping of his fans, just needs one good knock to find form. But, that one good knock has not come yet and you cannot compromise the future of Sri Lankan cricket by being kind to an once devastating player. The selectors should have a quiet talk with Sanath and suggest that he walk away from the game so we who once applauded his audacious batting remember him for what he has done and not for what he did not do when he needed to. Perhaps, Murali could also mentor Suraj before he too slips into the what is soon to be the twilight of his illustrious career. As for Sangakkara, he should pay more attention to leading his team by focusing on his batting rather than craft shrewd pseudo-psychiatrist like comments to rattle opponents.

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 13:41 GMT

    Drop the MP and give the chance to a younger player. Let Mahela and Dilshan open. Come on Sri Lanka.

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 13:25 GMT

    if SL cannot post a meaningful opening stand winning prospect is bleak and the pom strategy would be to prevent that happening and with so many combinations anything could happen regradless of who plays. Sanath ought to hang his boots for the simple reason realise that things are not clciking right

  • ramsen76 on May 13, 2010, 13:00 GMT

    sanga...pull up ur socks...drop SJ...it's better to give chandimal a chance instead of carrying a name around as the 11th player...dont drop thisara perera....these guys will win us a future

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