x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

First World Twenty20 semi-final too close to call

Consistent Sri Lanka meet a Pakistan side playing with freedom tomorrow night.

Mohammad Hafeez, left, the Pakistan captain, credits the quality of spin bowlers, such as Shahid Afridi, for his team's success. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
Mohammad Hafeez, left, the Pakistan captain, credits the quality of spin bowlers, such as Shahid Afridi, for his team's success. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

COLOMBO // So often do these two sides meet that the occasion and the pressures of a semi-final can probably be blurred away by simple familiarity. Tomorrow night will be their fourth meeting in a World Twenty20 alone.

Pakistan have won two of those and Sri Lanka have yet to win a single Twenty20 international at the R Premadasa Stadium in four attempts, statistics which will warm Pakistan hearts.

As will the fact Sri Lanka have made a modern habit of getting to the final stages of a global event and getting knocked out. They have lost the last two 50-over World Cup finals, the 2009 World Twenty20 final and were semi-finalists of the same event in 2010.

But the nature of the format forewarns reading too much into these trends. This is a one-off shoot-out, bound to turn on an over or two, and the hosts have been the only undefeated side in the Super Eights.

Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka captain, said: "We're still a game away from getting to the title, but I'm extremely proud to be part of the group that has been very consistent in the big tournaments.

"That shows the quality of the squad and the players' determination to do well in the tournaments. Even though we haven't won, but for us to be in those situations, the opportunities are there and means you are pushing harder and doing the right thing."

Pakistan are big tournament specialists themselves. This is now their sixth successive semi-final at an ICC event and the India loss apart, they have looked contenders right through.

"We as a team in T20 play very freely," said Mohammad Hafeez, the Pakistan captain.

"It allows you to go out there and express yourself and we're blessed with some very good spinners, which is a reason we are doing a great job in this format."

There are any number of key battles to look out for, but a keener eye than usual will be kept on the toss.

In their last Super Eights game against England, Jayawardene handed the captaincy, on paper at least, to Kumar Sangakkara, as he sought to avoid another slow over-rate violation, which would have handed him an immediate one-match ban.

He left open the possibility that it may happen again.

"We still haven't decided how to approach this game," Jayawardene said. "Personally, I feel we had no malice in taking that decision.

"It was not to undermine anyone or do anything illegal."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE