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Sri Lanka pick up 16 run win to advance to World T20 Final

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jayawardeneSri Lanka advanced to the Final of the ICC World T20 on Thursday night with a nerve-wracking 16 run win against Asian rivals Pakistan. The match was a lot closer than the winning margin would reflect and Pakistan were very much in the hunt till the last few overs during which Sri Lanka dried up the runs. Batting first, Sri Lanka struggled to come to terms with a sluggish pitch, and had to battle their way to a score of 139-4 on the back of an excellent 42 from Mahela Jayawardene. Pakistan in response had a competitive start to their chase and were 55-1 approaching the half-way stage of their innings, but lost wickets in clusters and never really recovered, despite a combative 42 from their skipper Mohammad Hafeez.

Sri Lanka won their first toss of the tournament in today's semi-final against Pakistan and made the hard decision to bat first. Both teams made just the one change to their sides with Pakistan calling up left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir for all rounder Abdul Razzaq, while Sri Lanka opted for the experience of Rangana Herath over rookie spinner Akila Dananjaya.

The Lankans made a steady but far from spectacular start, posting 34 runs without losing a wicket in the bowling powerplay. Sohail Tanveer showed his selection was an inspired one, getting through 3 overs for just 11 runs and keeping a very tight leash on the Sri Lankan openers, and Tillakaratne Dilshan in particular. At the other end, left-arm spinner Raza Hasan was on the money as well.

The spreading of the field allowed skipper Mahela Jayawardene to open his shoulders a bit, but the Lankan skipper had to resort to the unconventional in an attempt to engineer boundaries. Mahela found the fence 7 times in an enterprising innings of 42, cut short by an attempted scoop off Shahid Afridi that went straight down the throat of the man at short fine leg.

With Dilshan continuing to struggle, Kumar Sangakkara came out with the sole objective of scoring quick runs, and went after the Pakistani bowling right from the off. His essay though was cut short for 18 (11b), when he was caught in the deep off Mohammad Hafeez as Sri Lanka slid to 84-2.

Sri Lanka's struggles with the bat continued with Jeevan Mendis joining Dilshan in his desperate attempt to swing the bat without much luck. Both men perished in quick succession, but not before they had eaten up way too many deliveries, with Dilshan falling for 35 from 43 balls to Umar Gul, while Mendis contributed 15 from 18 before being stumped off Saeed Ajmal.

Sri Lanka finally got some runs flowing in the final over, helping themselves to three boundaries off Umar Gul to push their score up to 139-4 from their 20 overs, but one couldn't help but wonder if the fireworks had come too little too late.

Pakistan appeared to have caught the Lankan batting bug, and too struggled to get a move on against the new ball. The former champions struggled to 31-1 in the powerplay with Imran Nazir scoring the bulk of those runs, but falling for 20 on the final ball of the 6th over to Ajantha Mendis.

Skipper Mohammad Hafeez got some rhythm to his batting by spending some time out in the middle, and started to pick up some runs when the field spread. At the other end though the rest of the Pakistan batting order fell like nine pins with Angelo Mathews removing Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal in the same over, while Rangana Herath ran through the middle order bowling Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi. In between those two dismissals, the left-arm spinner also accounted for Hafeez for 42, just when the Pakistan captain had threatened to cut lose.

With less than 100 runs on the board and 6 batsmen back in the hutch it was suddenly Sri Lanka's game to lose.

Umar Akmal and Sohail Tanvir gave the dugout some hope by sharing in a 20-run stand for the 7th wicket before a rush of blood cost the left-hander his wicket, falling for 8 to Ajantha Mendis. With 27 runs to defend from 14 balls, Sri Lanka produced some of their best cricket, conceding just 4 from the next 10 balls to cruise to a comfortable win at the end.

Pakistan played some terrific cricket right through the World Cup, but their batting has always been iffy, and let them down again in a big game. In the final reckoning, the 16 runs conceded from Umar Gul's final over proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Sri Lanka will now await the winner of the match between Australia and West Indies, and in home conditions will be huge favourites to win their first T20 World title.


Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath, Ajantha Mendis

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (c), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wk), Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan


Sri Lanka 139-4 (20 overs, 6.95 rpo)
M Jayawardene 42 (36) M Hafeez 1-12
T Dilshan 35 (43) U Gul 1-26

Pakistan 123-7 (20 overs, 6.15 rpo)
M Hafeez 42 (40) R Herath 3-25
U Akmal 29* (22) A Mendis 2-27

Sri Lanka win by 16 runs

File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20