The 4th edition of the ICC World T20 Cup had a poor start as it faced criticism for poor schedule, one-sided matches and rain-affected results. It regained the attention in the Super-8s stage thanks to some mouth-watering clashes, nail-biting finishes and disappointing early exits for the heavy-weights. Now it heads towards a finish which only the Caribbeans could have dreamed of, as the clinical Sri Lanka go head-to-head against the “Black Storm” West Indies in a battle to claim their first-ever T20 championship.
Sri Lanka come in to the final having only lost against South Africa in a 7-over run-fest. They have been some-what clinical against the rest of their opponents. After eliminating the defending champions and their Asian rivals, Sri Lanka now look to break the jinx of losing Major ICC tournament finals and winning their third ICC trophy, and what better place to do that than your own backyard?
On the other hand, West Indies have been the most entertaining side to watch in this tournament having won the hearts of millions with their celebrations led by Chris “Gangnam Style” Gayle. They have defied all the odds and all the criticism to reach this far in the tournament. They entered the Super-8s without winning a single group-match thanks to the rain. They paved way for the semi-finals by defeating the defending champion England and clinching victory from New Zealand in a super-over eliminator. They then put on their best performance in the semi-finals as they pummeled the Aussies by 74 runs. They had their last taste of an ICC trophy back in 2004 and will fight till the last ball in hopes of making their predecessors proud and bringing some joy and glory back to the Caribbean.
The two sides have met only 3 times before this tournament, twice in the 2009 edition and once in the 2010 edition of the World T20. Sri Lanka have won all of those matches, twice by huge margins. The last time they faced each other was in the Super-8s where Sri Lanka cruised home by 9 wickets.
Tilakaratne Dilshan is Sri Lanka’s highest run-scorer against West Indies with 187 runs in 4 matches at an average of 93.50, with the top score of 96*.
Ajantha Mendis is the Sri Lanka’s highest wicket-taker against West Indies with 9 wickets at an average of 7.77 and best figures of 3-24.
Dwayne Bravo is West Indies’ highest run-scorer against Sri Lanka with 114 runs in 4 matches at an average of 28.50 and highest score of 51.
Chris Gayle is the second-highest run-scorer with 219 runs (including three 50s) in 6 matches with the most sixes in the tournament to his name. He showed a different approach in the semi-final as he carried his bat through the innings, picking out the bowlers to attack and scoring a match-winning 75*. He won’t be easy to dismiss, but facing the likes of Malinga, Kulasekara, Herath, the Mendises and the mystery bowler Dananjaya won’t be a walk in the park either. West Indies will have to work out each and every bowler and they will need contributions from every batsman in the middle order if they are to pose a threat to the home team.
Mahela Jayawardena has proved yet again that T20 isn’t a format for sloggers only. He has been leading the team from the front with his classy and orthodox batting, scoring 210 runs (including one 50) in 6 matches, just 9 runs behind Gayle, having hit the most number of 4s in the tournament.
Despite being good players of spin, Sri Lanka will have to be careful of Sunil Narine, who has had some good back-up in the form of Samuel Badree and Marlon Samuels. Under-estimating Narine could be lethal for Sri Lanka’s championship dreams.
Pitch and Weather:
Sri Lanka will look to make the most of their home advantage by preparing a pitch similar to the one on which they played against Pakistan in the semi-final. It will be dry, dusty and a turner. The batsmen will have to work hard for their runs.
The weather forecast suggests that there will be 60% chance of rain with scattered thunder-storms in Colombo, however, the chances of rain decrease to 30% by night.
“Sorry Sri Lanka, it’s West Indies all the way”
Chris Gayle has made his intentions clear to the spectators and seems confident that the West Indies will win the cup.
Sri Lanka will win in a low-scoring nail-biter.
The blog was first published on the defunct KheloPakistan.com.