Daijiworld Media Network
Colombo, Oct 4: Hello and welcome everyone to the business end of the tournament. This one promises to be a cracker. The hosts, Sri Lanka, have made good use of the home conditions with their top three batsmen in good form. The bowling looks well rounded too.
There is little to separate them from their opponents, Pakistan. The latter boast of a very rich spin attack with most of their batsmen contributing on and off. The toss could be very important and we'll have to wait to see if teams still prefer chasing. That and the team coming up in a short while.
Sri Lanka have won the toss and elected to bat
Mahela: 'We're going to bat first. The wicket is dry. We saw the ladies play as well. I think we are quite used to play in this stadium. I want the guys to enjoy themselves. Rangana replaces Akila.'
Hafeez: 'We wanted to bat first to be honest but we have to play some good cricket and restrict the Sri Lankans. Everyone is positive and we want to continue that as a team. Razzaq is not playing. Tanvir is in.'
Pakistan (Playing XI): Mohammad Hafeez(c), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal(w), Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Sohail Tanvir
Sri Lanka (Playing XI): Mahela Jayawardene(c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara(w), Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga
Match preview :
What happens when 2 giant forces, equal in magnitude and power move towards each other from opposite directions - a thunderous collision! Nothing less is expected when hosts Sri-Lanka take on Pakistan in the first semi-final of the T20 WC 2012 at the Premadasa in Colombo on the 4th of October, Thursday.
Head to Head
T20Is: Pakistan-6, Sri-Lanka-3
World T20Is: Pakistan-2, Sri-Lanka-1
Pakistan got the better of Lanka in the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007. Sri-Lanka defeated them by 19 runs in a group stage match at Lord's a couple of years later but Pakistan had the last laugh hammering the Lankans by 8 wickets in the final at the same venue courtesy some sterling performances by Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq.
The home team have won all but one of their matches leading up to the semi-finals. The only loss came against South Africa in the Group Stage. The top 3 are firing for Sri-Lanka. The captain Jayawardene (Runs:168, Avg:42, SR:122.62) has led from the front and been their leading scorer thus far. He has been astute tactically and proactive with his bowling changes and field placings. Sangakkara and Dilshan have been more aggressive and looked to provide the impetus. Jeevan Mendis has been the trusted all-rounder and with the likes of Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera, the middle-order has the ideal mix of power-hitters and innings-builders. The hosts also boast of a strong and potent bowling unit led by the crafty and skilful Ajantha Mendis (Wkts:9, Avg:12, SR:10.6, Econ:6.75, Maidens:3, maximum in the tournament).
Lasith Malinga has provided the firepower in the pace attack while Nuwan Kulasekara has maintained a stranglehold on the batsmen and been difficult to get away. Akila Dananjaya is the mysterious unknown tweaker and adds that element of 'surprise' to make it a high quality attack.
The strength of the Sri-Lankan team lies in its top heavy batting and the variation in its bowling attack. Also, they play as a unit and for each other and the team and there is always excellent camaraderie between them. Having said that, however, if the opposition makes some early in-roads, the middle and lower order could be tested.
Watch out for
The talented Angelo Mathews hasn't yet made a big impression in the tournament. He is a big match player and is well capable of clearing the fence at will. He can also pick up crucial wickets at important junctures in the match.
Pakistan has been the most dominant team in World T20 history having made it to the semi-finals stage on all 4 occasions since the tournament's inception in 2007. They lost to India in the final of the inaugural tournament and were the champions in the next edition in England beating Sri-Lanka in the final. Their only loss this year came against arch-rivals India.
Their maverick nature and style suits this format. Coupled with this is a bunch of extremely gifted natural stroke-makers, quality spinners and fast bowlers, making for an explosive unit. They have the best record in T20Is history in terms of matches won (38 wins in 63 matches) and are only marginally second to South Africa in the win-loss ratio (1.65 as compared to South Africa's 1.68). Interestingly, when extending the above to World T20 encounters, they still have the maximum wins (16 out of 25 matches) but are second to Sri-Lanka in the win-loss ratio (2.00 as compared to 2.14).
Pakistan have the ideal opening pair in the resolute Mohammad Hafeez, their skipper and the ballistic Imran Nazir. The latter has amassed 133 runs in 5 innings at an incredible strike rate of 164.19. Nasir Jamshed has come into his own in the tournament and is their leading run scorer with 144 runs (including 2 half-centuries) at an average of 36 and a strike rate of 141.17. The Akmal brothers, Afridi and Razzaq provide the firepower in the middle and lower order while Shoaib Malik is the calming influence keeping the innings together and dropping anchor incase of a collapse. Saeed Ajmal (8 wikets in 5 matches, Avg: 16.25, SR:15, Econ: 6.50), who will be on a hat-trick when he starts proceedings against Sri-Lanka, leads a quartet of highly skilful and talented spinners with the likes of Raza Hasan, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez all capable of winning matches single-handedly on their day. In Umar Gul, they have one of the finest fast bowlers in the world and someone who is exceptionally good in the death overs.
The strength of the Pakistani side lies in its potential match-winners and impact players who can change the course of the match in a matter of minutes. Sri-Lanka would look to make early in-roads in their top order as that would put the Pakistan middle-order under pressure and that is something they do not handle too well and tend to succumb and collapse. One way of doing so would be to stifle Mohammad Hafeez whose strike rate in the tournament has been a miserable 96.06 and force the likes of Nazir and Jamshed to take unwanted risks. Hafeez, on his part must rotate the strike more often or even consider opening with Kamran Akmal or Shahid Afridi, both of whom can have a tremendous impact up-front. Another option would be to swap positions with Shoaib Malik.
Watch out for
Shahid Afridi has had a quiet time with the bat and the ball and is itching to perform and make a difference. The Lankans would be wary of his ability and prowess having been at the receiving end of an Afridi blitzkrieg on a number of occasions. In 9 matches against them in T20Is he has scored 211 runs, including 3 fifties at an average of 30.14 and a strike rate of 138.81. He has been menacing with the ball too taking 11 wickets at an average of 14.90, strike rate of 18.5 and an economy of 4.82. He was the man of the series in the 2007 edition and the player of the match in the final of Pakistan's victorious campaign in 2009.
The team winning the toss would look to chase as the conditions become cooler and the ball comes onto the bat in the 2nd innings. Also, with the rain always threatening to intervene in the latter half of the match, it is a definite advantage to bat second and know the target should the Duckworth-Lewis equation come into the picture.
There are freakish similarities between the two teams. Both have a top heavy batting line-up, an untested middle-order, explosive hard-hitting bowling all-rounders, a bunch of game changing, skilful and world class spinners and in Gul and Malinga, two of the very best fast bowlers in the shortest format who specialize in bowling during the slog overs.
The game would be decided by the fascinating mini-battles - between the likes of Ajmal and Jayawardene/Sangakkara, Malinga and Nazir, Gul and Dilshan, Ajantha Mendis and Afridi/Razzaq. It would be a contest between the tenacity of Sri-Lanka and the glorious uncertainty of Pakistan. A fascinating Sub-Continental battle awaits!
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