x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dilshan knock sets up date with Pakistan

Tillakaratne Dilshan's stunning form at the World Twenty20 reached new heights as he posted the highest score in the competition to pilot Sri Lanka into a storybook final with Pakistan on Sunday.

LONDON // Tillakaratne Dilshan's stunning form at the World Twenty20 reached new heights as he posted the highest score in the competition to pilot Sri Lanka into a storybook final with Pakistan on Sunday. The innovative opener was unbeaten on 96 when his side's 20 overs were up, and he left it to his bowlers to do the rest as the side from the Teardrop Isle crushed the West Indies by 57 runs. Sri Lanka's batting is supposed to be a four-man operation. However, on this evidence, that overestimates their capabilities by three. Coming into the game, their top four had scored 83 per cent of their side's total runs for the tournament. When the big three ? Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene ? all parted within the space of just four runs being added, even more pressure fell on Dilshan. He responded admirably. As a marker of how far ahead of his colleagues Dilshan was, he shared an alliance worth 50 from 35 balls with Chamara Silva, of which his colleague contributed just 11. The sides need not have bothered with the toss. The Sri Lankans are happiest when setting a total then defending with their powerful artillery of bowlers, while the West Indies are more comfortable chasing. When the coin came down in the Caribbean side's favour, their skipper Chris Gayle did not hesitate in inviting them to bat. Gayle remains the only batsman to have scored an international Twenty20 century, and he seemed intent on stopping Dilshan from reaching the milestone. He bowled the last over of the innings, which Dilshan started on 91. He could only add five as the Sri Lankans finished on 158 for five. The West Indies were sunk before their reply was even an over old. Amid the hyperbole directed at the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews has slipped through his debut tournament virtually unnoticed. Now was his time to announce himself to the wider audience, and he fired out Xavier Marshall, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo in his opening over to leave the West Indies in tatters at one for three. Gayle refused to be silenced in the battle of the 20-over batting maestros. He promptly hit Malinga for three fours in his first over, and hit the biggest six of the day off Isuru Udana. Just like Dilshan, he ploughed a lone furrow, and even though he carried his bat for 63 not out, the Caribbean side's faint hopes were long since dissipated.

pradley@thenational.ae