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Cricket

A place in T20 WC final means a great deal for us: Jayawardene

A place in T20 WC final means a great deal for us: Jayawardene
10/5/2012 5:41:24 AM

A place in T20 WC final means a great deal for us: Jayawardene

A place in the final of the ongoing ICC World Twenty20 in home ground "means a great deal" for the cricket fans of the country, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene today said after the hosts beat Pakistan in the first semi-final here.

"It (place in the final) means a great deal, thanks to the fans," he said after Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by 16 runs at the R Premeadasa Stadium. In a brave move, Sri Lanka today brought in left-arm spinner Rengana Herath in place of off-spinner Akila Dananjaya and the skipper termed the decision as a tactical change.

"It was a tough call keeping out birthday boy Dananjaya but we knew Pakistan were weak against left-arm spin," said Jayawardene, who was adjudged man-of-the-match for his 38-ball 42 and leadership qualities.

Opting to bat Sri Lanka made a modest 139 for four in their 20 overs and Jayawardene he felt they were a few runs short. "We felt we were 15 short and 140 was a par score. We made mistakes in the field but it didn't cost us," he said.

Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez said a middle-order collapse put paid to their hopes of a win. "Every person gave 100 per cent. Jamshed and Raza have been the positives for us in this tournament. We were much in the game but the middle-order collapsed," he said.

"I thank the fans who came here to support us. We really wanted to do something for them," Hafeez added.

Windies test for stubborn Australia

Windies test for stubborn Australia
10/5/2012 5:43:05 AM

Windies test for stubborn Australia

The controversy surrounding the arrest of a few girls from Chris Gayle’s room wasn’t exactly the build up the West Indies would have hoped for just two days before their semifinal against Australia.

While there seems to be no merit in the case, the incident may have left a bad taste in their mouth. Looking to make their first final of a major ICC event since the 2004 Champions Trophy triumph, the Caribbeans will need their best batsman in the best physical and mental shape to quell a strong Aussie challenge here at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday night.

Normally a jovial presence on the field, the southpaw appeared a bit subdued during team’s practice on Thursday afternoon but the West Indies will be hoping the ‘Gangnam Style’ will be back in full swing on Friday. The last time the two sides met in a Group ‘B’ encounter, Australia had emerged winners in a rain-truncated affair on Duckworth/Lewis and the one abiding memory of that match was Gayle’s merciless pounding of the Aussie bowlers, an act ably followed up by Marlon Samuels.

Clearly, the Windies will rely on their endless stream of hard-hitting batsmen to get the better of exchanges though their batting has looked a bit off-colour in the last two Super Eight matches against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. While Sri Lanka chased down 130 without a fuss, New Zealand lost in the Super Over after they tied the match chasing 139, facilitating Windies’ progress to the semifinal from Group 1.

In a format where a team with more wins doesn’t necessarily stay in contention for the title, it’s all about performing better than your rivals on a given day. While the Windies are in the semis having just won two matches (including one in Super Over) in the tournament so far, India are out despite four wins in five matches. This is what exactly Darren Sammy and his men are capable of delivering.

The Windies will be aware the key to their success lay in removing the top three in the Australian batting line-up. It was the trio of Shane Watson, David Warner and Michael Hussey that had denied them the victory earlier despite mounting 191/8. The Aussie collapse against Pakistan’s spinners in a Super Eight match, however, would have given some clues to the Men in Maroon as to how to approach their game.

Quite obviously, Windies don’t possess the spin resources that Pakistan enjoy but in Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree they have it in them to trouble the Aussie batsmen if the conditions are in their favour. With five wickets between them, the off-spin and leg-spin combo hasn’t quite set the pitch on fire, but the duo is increasingly looking threatening.

The travails against Pakistan will surely keep the Aussie batsmen a bit wary and there is a good chance of David Hussey replacing all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. The most prolific scorer in the history of T20, the 35-year-old will lend both experience and solidity to the middle-order that was sorely missing once their top was cropped by Pakistan.

Lankan lions storm into final

Lankan lions storm into final
10/5/2012 5:48:44 AM

Lankan lions storm into final

The hunter became the hunted on a fascinating day of battle between spinners.

Pakistan had ridden piggyback on the exploits of their plethora of spinners, none so more tellingly than against Australia that shut the door on India. On a raucous Thursday when the roars of home fans reduced a till-now-boisterous Pakistani support to nothing more than a whimper, Sri Lanka scored a popular 16-run win, scripted by their own set of tweakers, to storm into the final of the World T20 here at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Opting to bat first, Sri Lanka had struggled their way to 139/4, made possible only by skipper Mahela jayawardene’s sparkling knock (42, 35b, 7x4) at the top of the order and some slogging in the final over bowled by Umar Gul that took the total from being a modest one to competitive. A fortuitous Mohammad Hafeez (42, 40b, 4x4, 1x6), dropped by Lasith Malinga on 24, seemed to make Lanka pay dearly for their lapse but inspired change Rangana Herath (3/25) put paid to their aspirations. It was a bit surprising that Herath didn’t get the man of the match honours which went to Jayawardene.

Pakistan appeared to be making a steady progress to their target when left-arm spinner Herath delivered twin blows in the 15th over, removing Hafeez and Shahid Afridi off successive balls to decisively tilt the issue in Lanka’s favour. Earlier, a similar blow from Mathews, who had dismissed both the in-form Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal in the 10th over had provided Lanka a whiff of a chance in the match.

Lanka, in a way, exacted a sweet revenge for their defeat in the final of the 2009 edition in England. The hosts now await the winners of the second semifinal between Australia and the West Indies on Friday.

The one point of interest was if Jayawardene would be at the toss or designate a captain in his place like he did against England to escape a ban should there be another slow over-rate offence. Till Wednesday, he was non-committal about the move he was going to make but the right-hander put all the speculations to rest by walking in with his team list along with Hafeez.

Soon Jayawardene was sprinting in with his fellow opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (35, 43b, 3x4) after opting to bat first on a pitch where England and New Zealand’s women’s team were involved in a semifinal clash in the afternoon. While an effort ball did fetch bounce and carry, the powdery nature of the surface kept the spinners more than interested.

The difficult nature of the track made it mandatory that Power Play overs had to be made maximum use of. While Jayawardene was able to pick boundaries through innovative and conventional strokes, Dilshan struggled to keep pace with his partner. He couldn’t manage a strike rate of more than 50 in the first six overs, leaving Jayawardene with all the running to do. With spinners increasingly becoming difficult to pace the force against, Sohail Tanvir should have been targeted, but the left-arm seamer, a replacement for Abdul Razzaq, gave little away in three overs as Lanka could score just 34 during field restrictions.

Jayawardene fell in attempt to scoop the ball after which Kumar Sangakkara brought in the urgency that Dilshan needed to show. The stylish southpaw, however, fell soon failing to clear the long-on fielder. Dilshan’s struggles continued while Jeevan Mendis slackened after initial exuberance. In the end, it was Gul’s 16-run final over, in which Thisara Perera and Mathews collected three fours, that made the difference.

Score board

SRI LANKA

Jayawardene c Hasan b Afridi    42
(36b, 7x4)
Dilshan lbw Gul    35
(43b, 3x4)
Sangakkara c Malik b Hafeez    18
(11b, 3x4)
J Mendis c K Akmal b Ajmal    15
(18b, 1x4)
Perera (not out)    11
(7b, 2x4)
Mathews (not out)    10
(6b, 1x4)
Extras (B-3, W-4, NB-1)    8
Total (for 4 wkts, 20 overs)    139
Fall of wickets: 1-63 (Jayawardene), 2-84 (Sangakkara), 3-117 (Dilshan), 4-118 (Jeevan).
Bowling: Tanvir 3-0-11-0 (w-1), Hasan 4-0-26-0, Ajmal 4-0-33-1 (w-1), Afiridi 4-0-28-1, Hafeez 2-0-12-1(w-1), Gul 3-0-26-1 (nb-1, w-1).
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 34/0.

PAKISTAN

Hafeez st Sangakkara b Hafeez    42
(40b, 4x4, 1x6)
Nazir b A Mendis    20
(21b, 3x4)
Jamshed lbw Mathews    4
(8b)
K Akmal c J’wardene b Mathews    1
(2b)
Malik b Herath    6
(7b)
U Akmal (not out)    29
(22b, 3x4)
Afridi b Herath    0
(1b)
Tanvir st Sangakkara b A Mendis    8
(13b)
Gul (not out)    2
(6b)
Extras (LB-2, W-9)    11
Total (for 7 wkts, 20 overs)    123
Fall of wickets: 1-31 (Nazir), 2-55 (Jamshed), 3-57 (Kamran), 4-64 (Malik), 5-91 (Hafeez), 6-91 (Afridi), 7-113 (Tanvir)
Bowling: Mathews 4-0-27-2, Kulasekara 3-0-15-0 (w-2), Malinga 4-0-19-0 (7), Ajantha Mendis 4-0-27-2, Thissara Perera 1-0-8-0, Rangna Herath 4-0-25-3.
Runs during Power Play: 1-6 overs: 31/1.

Mahela pats Sri Lankan bowlers

Mahela pats Sri Lankan bowlers
10/5/2012 5:49:59 AM

Mahela pats Sri Lankan bowlers

Admitting that 140 wasn’t a winning target, Mahela Jayawardene was lavish in his praise of Sri Lankan bowlers who bowled the hosts into the World T20 final here on Thursday.

“We thought 140 was not a winning score but a par score where we could challenge,” said the man of the match for his 35-ball 42. “We knew that guys were struggling to get that (total) unless you get a good start. We thought we fell short maybe about 15-20 runs. The way we started we probably should have finished better but credit to Pakistani bowlers; Umar Gul bowled really well. 140 was a challenging score and the only way you could have won the match was by picking up wickets regularly which we did,” the skipper remarked.

Being positive, Jayawardene said, was one way of going about the job. “When you see a batting line-up like Pakistan you try and pick up wickets. Try and be positive as much as possible. On a slow track, you try and bowl straight and the guys did that. Especially the first six overs were very crucial for us. But we varied the pace, kept it nice and straight, made them play big shots and take risks. After that spinners came and did the job for us. I don’t say too much because these guys are experienced enough to know what they need to do. They back their abilities.”

Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez felt that the middle-order failure threw Pakistan’s chase out of gear. “We knew that on this pitch where the ball stopped a bit, the spinners will come into play,” Hafeez began. “Unfortunately, the middle-order failed. I am still proud of the team and the way it fought in this tournament,” he said.

WI draw energy from London Oly

WI draw energy from London Oly
10/5/2012 5:51:37 AM

WI draw energy from London Oly

Thanks to an array of T20 specialists, the West Indies have been anointed as one of the favourites to win the World T20 though their campaign has been a bit wobbly so far.

However, going into their semifinals against Australia on Friday, Darren Sammy and company can still fancy their chances of entering the final.

A lot of their inspiration, Sammy pointed out, has been derived from the success the Caribbean athletes enjoyed at the London Olympics. “Oh yes, that was definitely mentioned in our preparation,” noted Sammy during West Indies’ practice on Thursday. “I remember the coach (Ottis Gibson) giving a speech in one of the meetings before the World T20. What happened this year in the Olympics with our Caribbean athletes, it has given us a lot of inspiration. I remember being in Jamaica watching the men’s and women’s 100 and 400M finals. Though Jamaica was winning, it felt like the entire Caribbean was winning,” he reminisced.

Pointing out that cricket was a unifying factor for Caribbeans, Sammy hoped to replicate the London heroics. “We have a team (in the World T20 semifinals) and cricket is a game that really unites the Caribbean people. So, everybody at home is rooting for us. After all those happenings in the Olympics, this is another step for us, as a Caribbean team, to put a smile on our fans’ faces. We play for the fans. We dedicate this tournament to all the die-hard fans who have been supporting us through thick and thin. It is a golden opportunity for us to go out there and win this World Cup for them,” he remarked.

In a rare coincidence, West Indies’ women’s team too will be squaring up against Australia in the semifinals on Friday. “It’s a rare occasion that we find the men and women playing the same team. Definitely I would want the girls to set the trend for us in winning their semifinal game and we could follow suit.”

Talking about his team’s clash against Australia, Sammy said: “It’s good that we watched them play against Pakistan. We have a variety of guys who can bowl spin in our side. We will definitely look to exploit that. We have always had good games against Australia, We have always scored heavy against them. We back our guys because their attack seems to favour us,” the all-rounder said.