T20 World Cup Semifinal Preview: History Favours Pak, Lanka Has Winning Momentum

The fourth T20 World Cup has reached the knockout phase and three more matches will provide another champion. Pakistan is the only team, among the current semifinalists to have lifted the trophy. Sri Lanka is the second most successful team of T20 World Cup after Pakistan. Both have lost just one match on their road to semifinals and are riding high on momentum, yet Pakistan with a better history are favorites to reach their third final.

T20 World Cup 2012: Schedule and Results

Sri Lanka has played 46 Twenty20 internationals, winning 28 and losing 18.
Pakistan has played 63 Twenty20 matches, won 38 and lost 25.

Road to Semifinals
Sri Lanka lost to South Africa at Group Stage, but won all the three matches of Group 1 in Super Eight defeating New Zealand, West Indies and England.
Pakistan defeated New Zealand and Bangladesh in the Group of Death, and in Group 2 of Super Eight spun out South Africa and Australia. Against archrivals India their spinners failed, and they registered their only defeat of the current World Cup.

Head-to-Head
In 2010 both of them reached the final from different groups and lost to England and Australia. But they played each other in 2007 and 2009.

    Pakistan leads Sri Lanka 6-3 in T20 matches.
    In World Cup, Pakistan leads Sri Lanka 2-1.
    In 2007 Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka by 33 runs in Super Eight.
    In 2009 Sri Lanka took revenge by winning Super Eight match by 19 runs.
    But in the final Pakistan defeated them by 8 wickets.

Strength
Bowling of both the teams have taken them to semifinal. While both can boast of match-winning spinners, batting for both has been average.

Both the teams have variety of spinners. But, Pakistan has a better set with Ajmal, Afridi and Raza Hasan as compared to Sri Lanka’s Mendis duo. Both teams have good part-time bowlers. Yet Pakistan have a better spin set. Their T20 record 18 overs bowled against Australia by spinners helped them restrict the rampaging team to a low score.

Yet, against India when the spinners failed nothing worked for them. Sri Lannkan pace duo of Malinga and Kulasekara have always been effective. For Malinga with a 5-wicket haul against England the tournament has just started and that is no good news for any opponent.

Mahela Jayawardene is the strength of Sri Lankan batting. But, then is one enough against Australia!! For Pakistan, Jamshed and Umar Akhmal are the key.

Problem Areas
Both the teams have unsuccessful middle and lower order. If the top-order trio fails for any of them, the team is in trouble. Except the match winning knocks of Umars against South Africa, Pakistan does not have any other memorable performance from other batsmen. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka does any good performance from any other batsman, unless unbeaten 43 runs by Jeevan Mendis is considered something to gain confidence.

Captains
Both the captains have been one of the most successful for their respective teams. While Hafeez has shown maturity and taken smart decisions, Mahela is an experienced captain. Both are leading by example. On most of the occasions Hafeez opens the bowling also, besides opening the inning. Still, his batting has been more of supportive type rather than aggressive type with which one can identify Mahela.

As captains, both are street smart. Mahela’s off-field decision to step down from captaincy in last match of Super Eight to avoid facing ban for semifinals is certainly an example of how he can use the condition for the team’s benefit.

Star Performers
For Pakistan, Jamshed (144), Imran Nazir (133) and Hafeez (122) are the batsmen in the 100-run league of current World Cup.
Sri Lanka has Mahela (168), Dilshan (144) and Sangakkara (130) in that league.
Ajantha Mendis (9), Malinga (8), Jeevan Mendis and Kulasekara (5 each) are already among wickets with some record performance and very economic bowling too.
Ajmal (8) leads the pack where individual performance is difficult to judge by number of wickets as Hafeez (4), Afridi and Raza Hasan (3 each) and others dry the run faster than the batsmen can even think of the options to break free.

Players to Watch
The young spinners Dananjay and Raza Hasan have kept on improving and deceiving. Their 4 overs may be the catalyst in gaining the momentum.

Pakistan Holds the Edge
Pakistan holds the edge with better set of spinners and comparatively more performing batting unit. Sri Lanka does not hold any home advantage against them. But with home crowd there to cheer them and Malinga getting into the rhythem in the fad end of tournament, Sri Lanka may win a tough competition if they can handle the spin attack even half as good as Indians did.

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