When contrasting sides face each other in cricket, it more often than not makes for a fascinating tussle – this is what will be hoped as West Indies face Sri Lanka in the first semi-final at Mirpur on Thursday. Both teams head into knockout clash having won three matches each, but that would count for little when they take on each other in the semis. Ironically, West Indies have been rather consistent in their efforts winning all their three games by massive margins while Lanka had to battle hard to overcome the South Africans and even looked out of sorts with the bat against New Zealand before Rangana Herath’s magical spell.
Being the defending champions, West Indies may hold a slight edge, but they nevertheless need to get their act right against Sri Lanka. As so often in the past, a lot will depend on how explosive opener Chris Gayle performs, particularly again danger man Lasith Malinga. The battle between the two T20 legends could go a long way in determining the result of the match. Both Gayle and Malinga are in great form, which would make the contest that much more intriguing. The performance of the other opener Dwayne Smith could also come in handy.
In the last couple of matches, West Indies have found themselves in trouble while batting, but the duo of Dwayne Bravo and captain Darren Sammy have done fantastically well to bail them out of trouble and take them to memorable wins. The big-hitting ability of Bravo and Sammy has never been in doubt, but the unabashed manner in which they overcame the Aussie and Pakistani challenge had a hint of old West Indian arrogance to it. With Herath in the opposition camp, the smashing West Indian duo may not find the going as easy, but they would definitely be buoyed by the manner in which they trounced the Saeed Ajmal factor a couple of days back.
Bowling wise, West Indies seem to have a more balanced attack. Left- arm seamer Krishmar Santokie has delivered some killer blows at the start while leggie Samuel Badree has been almost unplayable with the ball. Badree’s success has made Sunil Narine’s presence doubly dangerous as, by the time he has come on to bowl, the opponents mostly have already been under immense pressure, and he has had it rather easy with wickets. Lanka will be wary of the dual trouble in the form of Badree and Narine in spite of their prowess against the slow ball bowlers. Lanka themselves have the likes of Kulasekara and Mathews to support Malinga and Herath, but their lack of pace has proved to be a detriment in the past.
Both West Indies and Sri Lanka have one major worry factor each as they head into the semis. While Marlon Samuels hasn’t been among the runs for the defending champions, Kumar Sangakkara hasn’t scored many in his farewell T20 series. Knowing the quality of the two players, both would be keen to make an impact on the big day. If they do so, past failures won’t count.
Overall, while West Indies must guard against complacency, which could translate into recklessness, Sri Lanka cannot afford to compromise on momentum for the sake of consistency.
Sri Lanka have defeated West Indies 4 out of 5 times in T20s However, the only time that Sri Lanka lost was in the 2012 T20 final Mahela Jayawardene (134) has scored most runs for Lanka in the series so far while Nuwan Kulasekara (6) has claimed most wickets For West Indies, Chris Gayle (140) is the top run-getter and Samuel Badree (10) has claimed most scalps.
--By A Cricket Analyst