Dilshan powers Sri Lanka to final
Sri Lanka 158 for 5 (Dilshan 96*) beat West Indies 101 (Gayle 63*, Mathews 3-16, Muralitharan 3-29) by 57 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It will be an all-Asia final at the ICC World Twenty20 after Sri Lanka maintained their unbeaten record by crushing West Indies by 57 runs at The Oval. Tillakaratne Dilshan added another installment to his breathtaking tournament with an unbeaten 96, the highest score of the event, as his team-mates struggled for momentum. Angelo Mathews then stunned West Indies with three wickets in the opening over before the spinners strangled the middle order, leaving Chris Gayle forlornly unbeaten on 63, carrying his bat as no one else reached double figures.
After everything the two countries have been through, it is fitting that Sri Lanka will meet Pakistan in the final. However, unlike Pakistan's campaign which has burst into life after a slow start, there has been a sense of destiny about Kumar Sangakkara's team reaching the Lord's showdown. Sri Lanka's run has been a triumph of mental strength and character and they now have the chance to mark their return to the international scene following the Lahore terror attack with a trophy.
They have played as a team throughout, but their position in the final was down to Dilshan's outstanding individual effort. His innings was the highest for Sri Lanka in Twenty20 and, in a quirky statistic, the innings briefly gave him the highest percentage of a completed innings before Gayle's lone hand nipped ahead. Dilshan looked set for the tournament's first century until losing the strike towards the end. However, with Dilshan set for the closing stages, 60 runs came from the final five overs with Mathews playing a valuable four-ball cameo with two final-over boundaries.
However, that was only the start of Mathews' role in the game. It was a surprise when he was handed the new-ball at the start of the tournament, but has been a constant presence upfront. Nothing, though, had come close to matching this effort. With his second ball he removed Xavier Marshall - who had replaced Andre Fletcher following three consecutive ducks - via an inside edge. It would become a common form of dismissal.
Two balls later, Lendl Simmons was slightly unlucky when he went across his stumps and the ball ricocheted from his thigh pad onto leg stump. That wasn't the end, though, and Mathews' third was the vital wicket of Dwayne Bravo as he too got an inside edge into middle stump. A stunned West Indies were 1 for 3.
Gayle, too his credit, played the situation and even opted to leave a couple of deliveries as he collected his thoughts. Normal service resumed with three boundaries when Lasith Malinga came on early to bowl the fourth over and Isuru Udana was swung for six over long-on. Then came the spinners and, coupled with some brainless shot selection, the game was over.
Ajantha Mendis trapped Shivnarine Chanderpaul on the sweep as he and Muttiah Muralitharan made the middle order prod and poke as though playing with their eyes closed. Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was dropped on 2 by Mendis running round from long-on, was soon held by the omnipresent Mathews and Kieron Pollard was made to look a novice when he was stumped off a wide. Mendis' 2 for 9 were Sri Lanka's most economical Twenty20 figures, but Murali's 3 for 29 reminded everyone of where the mystery began.
Sri Lanka's innings was a curious affair, none more so than when Sanath Jayasuriya was labouring over a 37-ball 24. He never looked comfortable, changing his bat four times, before top-edging to short fine-leg. That the opening stand was still worth a profitable 73 in 10.3 overs was down to how well Dilshan played. He drove, flicked and swept (but never quite scooped, although he tried) his way to a 30-ball half century while partners came and went.
Sangakkara was superbly caught at backward point and Mahela Jayawardene clipped straight to short-fine leg as three wickets fell for four runs. It was down to Dilshan to give Sri Lanka's strong attack something to defend and he cashed in on two full tosses by Pollard. Placement was key to Dilshan's display and each time the bowlers strayed he managed to make the most of it.
The innings found some important momentum in the 17th over when Bravo was taken for 18 as he struggled to find his length. Dilshan cracked three boundaries and Chamara Silva then joined in when he swung the final delivery one bounce to the square-leg boundary. Silva's contribution to a stand of 50 in six overs was just 11, before he fell trying to reverse hit Sulieman Benn, but it put Sri Lanka on track for the type of score they have regularly defended and from there they never looked like losers. One more victory on Sunday would complete one of cricket's greatest stories.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo