Spin-heavy sides square off in all-Asian semifinal
by Asher Wilson

Scorecard:Sri Lanka v Pakistan
Event:ICC World Twenty20 2012/13

DateLine: 4th October 2012


Pakistan vs Sri Lanka
1st Semi Final
ICC World T20 2012
Match Preview


Pakistan is making its fourth consecutive semifinal appearance in World T20 events whereas Sri Lanka has played the finals of three T20 World cups in last five years. Who'll triumph? It will be a battle of attrition between the two sides who had met in the final of the 2009 edition of the tournament in England where Pakistan emerged victorious. The scene is entirely different this time around as Mohammed Hafeez and his boys will be facing a formidable Sri Lankan outfit in their own backyard.


After a turbulent couple of days when at different points, 3 teams hoped for a emifinal spot, and another went out after two super overs, we have the deserving four in the semifinals. While South Africa was knocking out India, a legion of Sri Lankan fans roared in support - perhaps aware of the mental edge India have had off late over their most familiar opponents. Come today however, Pakistan can expect far less generosity from the home fans. Their confidence is on a high after the big win over Australia, a supremely talented Pakistan will come out all guns blazing against hosts Sri Lanka in the first semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 today.


The biggest strength in Pakistan's squad is lack of stage-fright. In the knockout stages, Pakistan is always a side you don't want to face. Having scraped through the initial bouts, the chilling efficacy with which they dismantled the hitherto dominant Australia (Shane Watson and all) clearly foretells the 'greenshirts' are ready for a fight. Their spin-heavy attack has the variety and skills for these pitches. Ajmal, Hafeez and Afridi each bring a new dimension to the attack and young Raza Hasan has been their trump card. Umar Gul found his death-overs touch in the last match as well.


The openers are yet to fire comprehensively. In a format where a good start often gives momentum and dictates the way middle-order will approach, far too often Hafeez's nerviness and Imran Nazir's over-attacking has put the middle order under pressure. Akmal brothers and Shoaib Malik hasn't quite stayed till the end, and it makes Nasir Jamshed's role very important. It's also about time that Pakistan fans accept that Afridi's batting will always be a bonus, more miss than hit - his value is in his bowling, and fielding. Shahid Afridi has not yet had the sort of impact he usually does, but the knockout match might just get him to lift his game. Against the best fielding side of Asia, they also need to check their sloppiness on the field and at least be tidy.


For a side struggling to put up imposing totals, it's baffling to see Yasir Arafat making the cut while Abdul Razzak sits out. Not only is Razzak a much cleaner hitter with the bat, his use of seam, cut and slower balls is much better suited for the dusty Premadasa pitch.


Sri Lanka, after nearly botching a chase against New Zealand - a match they could have easily lost had NZ decided to run that extra run off the shot which hit Akila Dananjaya on the face - the Lions provided a solid thrashing to WI and defending champions England. Funnily enough, this is their first match in Colombo, a slow-low pitch which will suit all their spinners. Ajantha Mendis has roared back to International cricket, and Dananjaya, Dilshan, Jeevan etc. provide able support. Their top order is formidable. Jayawardene does it with a scalpel, Dilshan with an axe, and Sangakkara pretty much chooses per his wish. In Lasith Malinga, they also have one of the best death over bowlers in the format and his triple-wicket over was the perfect form leading up to the semifinals.


Take out the top order and the batting has a soft underbelly - Angelo Matthews, Jeevan Mendis, Thirimanne and Perera are all capable of slashing big hits but equally prone to dying by the sword, especially if the runs start drying up. None of them have the game to adapt seamlessly as Jayawardene. Pakistan was also the first team to decode Mendis - should he be negated - it'll be interesting to see how the bowling takes the heat.


Thisira Perera has won more MoM in his short career than most players win in their entire life. His zippy bowling adds value but it is his dangerous lusty hitting which might see him promoted if Dilshan goes early.


Eighteen year old Akila Dananjaya has been their find of the tournament who has bowled mature spells of right arm off-break whereas he bats with his left hand. Pakistanís answer to Dhananjaya is their 20-year old talent Raza Hasan. Interestingly, Raza bowls left-arm orthodox and bats with his right hand. Itís a contest within the bigger contest between two talented youngsters with an opportunity on a big stage early in their career.


The only advantage that Pakistan will have over Sri Lanka is the number of matches that they have played at this venue. Having played three matches and won two, Hafeez and his men have an idea of what to expect from the Premadasa surface.


The weather is expected to be partly cloudy with a high of 31 Celsius. Winds will range from 20 to 30 km/h with lesser chances of rain than have been throughout the week.


Overall Rivalry: Twice as good; Pakistan 6 wins Sri Lanka 3 wins


Momentum in the last five matches: Carnage; Pakistan 4 wins Sri Lanka 1 win


Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Akila Dananjaya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne.


Pakistan (from): Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Sami, Nasir Jamshed, Raza Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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