Sri Lanka were tonight sweating on the fitness of Ajantha Mendis, their most destructive bowler in the World Twenty20, ahead of their opening Super Eights match against New Zealand in Pallekele tomorrow.
The 25-year-old spinner took six for eight against Zimbabwe – the best figures in all Twenty20 cricket – before a side strain ruled him out of his team's second outing, against South Africa.
Graham Ford, the Sri Lanka coach, said it would be an upset if Mendis fails to recover.
"With the way he bowled and the X factor he brings, it would be a big blow," Ford said today. "In T20 cricket you want guys who can win matches on their own and he's one of those guys."
Mendis only returned to international cricket during this World Twenty20 after an eight month injury lay-off.
Ford said Sri Lanka have other bowlers to make up for Mendis's absence.
"We have a number of quality spinners, fortunately, so if Ajantha can't play we have very capable backup," said Ford of a squad which also includes the spinners Rangana Herath and the uncapped Akila Dananjaya. Ford hinted Dananjaya might play in case Mendis does not recover in time.
Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, expects the slower bowlers to play a big part in the Super Eights as all matches will be double-headers.
"Spin has been very successful in this form of the game," said Taylor today.
"With two games tomorrow, the wicket could deteriorate and take a bit of turn for the second game and not the first game. The main message is to be aggressive and not let them settle."
England crashed to a 90-run defeat against India, with the off-spinner Harbhajan Singh grabbing four for 12. And that prompted the West Indian captain to raise more hopes with Narine.
"Sunil is our trump card, he's done well for us in that format, hopefully he could have a big impact on the English batting line-up," Sammy said.
The England captain Stuart Broad acknowledged the West Indies posed a challenge.
"We've played against the West Indies this summer [in England], we know they are a dangerous side and they had success in the Twenty20 format with some players who have done well but we are focused for the match," said Broad.
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