Gayle could spoil Sri Lanka's party
(AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
By RIZWAN ALI
AP Sports Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) Sri Lanka will set out to tame the threat posed by West Indies batsmen as it goes for its first major title in 16 years in the World Twenty20 final on Sunday.
Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard tore apart the Australian attack by racking up the tournament's highest score of 205-4 in their semifinal on Friday night. Gayle led the way by hitting six massive sixes and five boundaries in his unbeaten 75 off 41 balls.
Sri Lanka last won a major trophy in 1996 when it lifted the 50-over World Cup. Since that famous victory at Lahore, Sri Lanka has had three unsuccessful shots at major titles - World Cup finals in 2007 and 2011 and the 2009 World Twenty20.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene also has to defy the odds on Sunday as no host nation has won the World Twenty20 since it was launched in 2007.
"We were not good enough to win those finals, but we believe we have the capacity to win this one," Jayawardene, who played in all three losses, said.
The teams know each other well after playing in the Super Eights stage. Sri Lanka got the better of Gayle on that occasion when he was out for just 2 off 9 balls. The West Indies team was held to 129-5 and the host went on to win by nine wickets at Pallekele.
But the West Indies switched gears against Australia forcing Jayawardene to shift the focus from Gayle.
"We never went after individual players, that's why we've controlled things the way we can control," Jayawardene said. "He's (Gayle) just another player in a very good West Indies team, so we have to focus on the entire team."
Jayawardene likely has the better bowling options at his disposal - both in pace and spin. Finger spinner Ajantha Mendis is the top Sri Lanka wicket-taker with 11 and has troubled batsmen on spin-friendly wickets. Fast bowler Lasith Malinga has bowled well - especially in the closing overs - and has grabbed eight wickets in the tournament.
In batting, Jayawardene and Tillkaratne Dilshan have given Sri Lanka solid opening stands and have scored 210 and 179 runs, respectively. With Kumar Sangakkara and pinch-hitters Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka has a batting lineup to counter opponents by posting decent totals to defend.
Few expected West Indies to go this far in the tournament. But two superlative performances in the Super Eights - a win over defending champion England and the one-over eliminator victory against New Zealand - suggested that Darren Sammy's team meant business.
Sammy said he was confident of upsetting Sri Lanka in front of a home crowd at the 35,000-capacity R Premadasa Stadium.
"That's what we'll be looking to do, we left home on a mission, it's just one more hurdle to jump," Sammy said.
"We will be looking to spoil their party, we peaked at the right time so we want to do party and the Caribbean people know how to party."
Sammy will be hoping for a batting-friendly wicket that could neutralize the spin threat of Mendis and the pace of Malinga.
The West Indies skipper has the luxury of at least seven bowling options with seamer Ravi Rampaul (8 wickets) and Sunil Narine (6) as his strike bowlers in the tournament.
Sammy added that the win over Australia has given his team fresh confidence ahead of the final.
"Belief in the dressing room is that we've done what we have to do to get into the final ... probably we have to bring our A-plus game," Sammy said. "We needed our A game to beat Australia and we have to play touch better to beat Sri Lanka, we believe we could do that."
The West Indies squad also got encouragement from former captain Clive Lloyd, who led West Indies to victory in 50-over World Cups in 1975 and 1979.
"I did get an email this morning from Mr. Lloyd saying `we're just very very proud of what the team is doing, people are very very happy in the Caribbean, just go out and win it. The only time success comes before work is in dictionary, so continue to work hard so we could be successful tomorrow.'"
Sunday will also be the last international game for Australian umpire Simon Taufel, who is retiring from the elite panel of umpires.
Updated October 6, 2012