LONDON: West Indies are confident of chasing nearly any total in this event; Sri Lanka believe there is no score they can’t defend. Clearly, something will have to give in their World Twenty20 semi-final.
Friday’s match at the Oval sees two exciting sides up against one another and, while Sri Lanka will start favourites, the West Indies have shown that they are not to under-estimated. Sri Lanka have yet to lose a match at this tournament.
In Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillekaratne Dilshan, they have a first-wicket partnership that can score rapidly. Behind them come the likes of captain Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, a pair of class batsmen.
But it is their bowling attack which has really proved a problem for most of their opponents at this tournament. For years now batsmen around the world have found that scoring quickly against off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is easier said than done. But he has now been joined by Ajantha Mendis, a spinner who flicks the ball out of his fingers in a way not seen in international cricket since Australia’s John Gleeson in the early 1970s and whose ‘carrom ball’ has left countless batsmen bemused.
That bowlers are restricted to four overs each in this tournament works in Mendis’s favour in that by the time batsmen have evolved some sort of plan to combat him, his spell is over.
But it was at the Oval, a happy hunting ground for West Indies down the decades, that the men from the Caribbean beat Australia by seven wickets in their tournament opener. That victory owed much to a quite brilliant 88 from West Indies captain Chris Gayle, the left-handed opener striking some of the biggest sixes ever seen at the south London venue.
Gayle has yet to hit such heights again at this competition but the knowledge of what he can do is enough to make most opponents pause for thought, although Sri Lanka’s unorthodox Lasith Malinga is unlikely to be as easy to ‘tee off’ against on a bouncy pitch as was Australia fast bowler Brett Lee.
In the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, West Indies have batsmen capable of plugging the gap if Gayle fails, while Dwayne Bravo is a talented all-rounder and the leader in the field of a team capable of taking some spectacular catches.