Sri Lanka superior

Sri Lanka’s defence of its runs was excellent. Lasith Malinga and Sachithra Senanayake — bowlers who normally operate at a later stage of the innings — were deployed early with good effect. Shreedutta Chidananda reports.

Sri Lanka played this semifinal without fear and had West Indies on the mat before the rain intervened. Chasing 161 West Indies still needed 81 off 37 balls when play was stopped. Darren Sammy was still at the wicket and runs had been scored at a better rate at a similar stage versus Pakistan but this would have been a far more exacting proposition. The Duckworth-Lewis par score was 107 at that point, handing Sri Lanka a 27-run win.

Both sides were happy to admit later that Sri Lanka deserved to win. It won the toss, put up a sizeable score, and squeezed West Indies out of the game with the right bowlers for the conditions. The Sri Lankan openers boldly attacked the West Indies bowlers early, showing no fear of Samuel Badree or Krishmar Sanotkie. When wickets fell, Lahiru Thirimanne consolidated wonderfully. The left-hander’s inclusion was a bit of a talking point, having come at the expense of the regular captain Dinesh Chandimal. The decision was later lauded as “brave” by Angelo Mathews, but how much of a voice Chandimal had in the matter is anybody’s guess.

“It was a collective decision — the selectors, management, and Chandimal. You got to do what’s best for the team all the time, regardless of who you are. I think he opted out, and he was brilliant in that. He wanted the best XI on the park. So I think it was a great and brave decision,” Mathews said.

Mathews himself had a big part in the victory and was rightly declared Man of the Match. His 23-ball-40 towards the end of the innings was the difference between a mediocre total and a good one.

Sri Lanka’s defence of its runs was excellent. Lasith Malinga and Sachithra Senanayake — bowlers who normally operate at a later stage of the innings — were deployed early. Mathews admitted that the team had been made aware of the threat of rain at the interval, but denied it had anything to do with the introduction of Malinga in the third over.

“After the first half, we got to know that there might be bit of rain,” he said. “But we didn’t play for the rain, because you can’t really predict the rain.

We just had to keep them tight and get wickets because they have some really big hitters, and if they get going we can’t stop them. We had to take wickets to push them back. Lasith came to bowl in the first six overs, which he doesn’t do normally, but he had to come in then because we needed our best bowler to come and strike for us and he did that.”

Malinga did indeed strike, sending back a struggling Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith. With the flow of runs staunched, West Indies struggled to get a foothold in the contest. It started to come down in buckets in the 14th over, and as hailstones covered the turf, it was obvious there was no chance of play.

Sammy, as is his wont, invoked God. “I took it like you know what, we have won a World Cup. We are a praying team, we know God normally answers our prayers but today, two gentlemen who have given a lot not only to Sri Lanka cricket but cricket on the whole, I guess the Almighty wants them to leave on a high, so they have one more game to try and win a World Cup and leave on a high. Probably that’s the reason why God put a hand in this match,” he said.

More amusing was Sammy’s reaction to the hailstorm. “Actually, I was quite intrigued to see what was happening,” he said. “I thought it was people pelting stones, somebody had to tell me it was hail. I have never seen something like that before. I don’t know how to explain it.”

THE SCORES

Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera b Santokie 26, Tillakaratne Dilshan (run out) 39, Mahela Jayawardene (run out) 0, Kumar Sangakkara c and b Badree 1, Lahiru Thirimanne c Simmons b Santokie 44, Angelo Mathews c Bravo b Russell 40, Seekkuge Prasanna (not out) 6, Extras (lb-2, w-2) 4, Total (for six wickets in 20 overs) 160.

Fall of wickets: 1-41, 2-41, 3-49, 4-91, 5-121, 6-160.

West Indies bowling: Samuel Badree 4-0-23-1, Krishmar Santokie 4-0-46-2, Sunil Narine 4-0-20-0, Marlon Samuels 4-0-23-0, Andre Russell 3-0-37-1, Chris Gayle 1-0-9-0.

West Indies: Dwayne Smith b Malinga 17, Chris Gayle b Malinga 3, Lendl Simmons lbw b Prasanna 4, Marlon Samuels (not out) 18, Dwayne Bravo c Jayawardene b Kulasekara 30, Darren Sammy (not out) 0, Extras (lb-1, w-7) 8, Total (for four wickets in 13.5 overs) 80.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-28, 3-34, 4-77.

Sri Lanka bowling: Nuwan Kulasekara 2.5-0-22-1, Sachithra Senanayake 2-0-6-0, Lasith Malinga 2-0-5-2, Rangana Herath 4-0-27-0, Seekkuge Prasanna 2-0-15-1, Angelo Mathews 1-0-4-0.