Thursday, October 17, 2019
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Sri Lanka-West Indies in battle of nerves

Both Sri Lanka and West Indies played superbly to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament and it’s good to see that the four best teams on form have made the cut.

Sri Lanka must have had their hearts in their mouths when they were dismissed for just 119 against New Zealand, but their spinners responded superbly on a pitch that assisted them.

Such is the nature of these tournaments, matches are played at the same venue, so as the tournament progresses the pitches get drier and drier and the spinners play a massive role. Even then the bowling effort of Rangana Herath was just brilliant. To pick up five wickets in four overs is a tremendous achievement and Sri Lanka will be looking to him again to get past the West Indies in this big game.

The West Indies, especially Darren Sammy, were once again outstanding against Pakistan. Pakistan had control of the game in the first 15 overs but for the next 25 it was the Caribbeans.

Sammy’s hitting against Australia and now Pakistan was simply amazing and it was good to see that he showed skills against both pace and spin in different conditions. He may not be blessed with the greatest of ability, but he has tremendous determination and passion, which stands out in pressure situations. He almost brought victory to the Caribbeans single-handedly and will once again be a big threat to the Sri Lankans at Mirpur.

The teams met last time in the final in Sri Lanka, where West Indies got past the home team and, although not much has changed in the composition of the sides, the Lankans will be trying to make amends here. This tournament will also be the last time Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will play in this format and these two champions will be looking to finish off on a winning note.

The conditions will suit both the teams. They have spinners to bowl on these pitches, plus Sri Lanka have Lasith Malinga and West Indies a differently capable Krishmar Santokie and both will have a big role to play at the end. There was a lot of talk about Santokie at the start of the tournament but he has justified his place in the team and has bowled ideally in the conditions available.

I don’t see too many changes in the squads when they walk out on Thursday. Dinesh Chandimal will come back after his suspension in the last game but the Lankans will have to find a place for Kushal Perera at the top because he can be a dangerous player.

The Lankans will play for the first time on this pitch in this competition, but their Asia Cup experience last month will allow them to settle down and not get surprised by its slowness. It is also the type of pitch the Lankans see a lot back home, so getting used to it will not be a problem for them.

At the end of the day, it is going to be as much a battle of nerves as it is of skill.

— The writer is a former India captain