SRI LANKA’S spinners carried them through to the final of their home tournament, with a 16-run ICC World Twenty20 semi-final victory over Pakistan at the Premadasa Stadium.
Rival openers Mahela Jayawardene and Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with 42 on each side but it was Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis who gave Sri Lanka the edge with five wickets between them after the hosts had posted 139 for four.
Sri Lanka’s sixless innings was a curious affair, albeit on a slow and low surface, but Pakistan’s run chase ran out of steam against Angelo Mathews and the spinners and they finished on a disappointing 123-7 from their 20 overs.
“We made them hit big shots, take risks and then we struck through our spinners,” Jayawardene said afterwards.
“At the beginning we thought 140 was a par score where we could challenge and we picked up wickets regularly which helped us to execute the plan.”
Pakistan ended up needing 39 off the last four overs. Lasith Malinga conceded just 11 in his two overs, while Mendis bowled a superb 19th over for just four runs and had Sohail Tanvir (13) stumped.
“On the pitch like that where it’s turning it was difficult to score runs,” Hafeez said. “It was not difficult to reach that target but, unfortunately, we lost too many wickets in the middle order and we couldn’t make a comeback into the match.”
Meanwhile, Australia believe an attacking and positive approach will be their best method in today’s second semi-final against West Indies.
Captain George Bailey is wary of the threat posed by Windies danger man Chris Gayle at the top of the order, but he senses adventure with bat and ball represents Australia’s best chance at the Premadasa Stadium.
Bailey said: “I’d rather see us throw caution to the wind. If we get knocked over, we get knocked over.
On the Windies line-up, the Tasmanian former Scottish Saltire added: “Their batting is no doubt their strength. If you can knock Gayle over early, it really does put pressure on the rest of their batsmen to step up.”
But Bailey’s opposite number Darren Sammy said: “It’s not only about Chris.
“Obviously he sets the momentum for us at the top of the order. But to win the game it will need a total team effort.
“In any cricket match you get one individual doing something brilliant. But it will take a collective effort.”