Sri Lanka played Pakistan for the second time in the finals, and fourth time in the World Cup. They had lost the 2009 final to Pakistan and at Super Eight stage both had won a match each. Even head-to-head Pakistan won double more than what Sri Lanka won leading them 6-3 before the semifinal of 2012 T20 World Cup.
Despite being the host Sri Lankans were not the favorite against the best team of the T20 World Cup. Although Sri Lanka had swept the Super Eight, yet Mahela knew the semifinal was their biggest challenge of the tournament, considering the strong bowling attack of Pakistan besides their ability to win even without scoring big.
Pakistan had edge with spinners as Sri Lanka had only one tested spinner and that was Ajantha Mendis as compared to the trio of Ajmal, Afridi and Raza of Pakistan. Yet, they knew they can not let their home crowd down at the knockout stage. And, on the back of their mind they knew after Pakistan they are the best team in T20 World Cup. One push was needed. And, they did just that.
Mahela Jayawardene decided to captain the side, without passing the baton again to Sangakkara. He also batted with intent when Pakistani bowlers were keeping the goings tough for them, and despite Dilshan scoring at a Test match speed, he took Sri Lanka to 63 by 10 overs. It was his effort and later on of Sangakkara and others that helped the innings get some pace. Yet, that was not enough and finally it was in the last over when Perera and Mathews milked Umar Gul for 16 runs.
Chasing the total Imran Nazir was aggressive, while captain Hafeez maintained his trademark slow beginnings. But, they could add only 31 runs by the end of 6th over when bowling his first Ajantha Mendis sent Nazir packing. Even Jamshed, their hitman, looked out of sorts and could add only 4 runs in 8 balls. And in the same over Mathews gave a double blow with Kamran Akhmal’s wicket.
Pakistan began to slump. They were 58/3 in 10 overs as against 61/0 by SL. After Shoaib Malik’s wicket in 11th over, Hafeez could sense the urgency. 76 runs were required in 9 overs. More than that Lankans were starting to rule.
When Pakistan looked getting comfortable Mathews in his second spell increased the tension for Sri Lanka.
Hafeez knew someone must fire to take Pakistan to record third final. He took the responsibility and scored 42 runs, identical to what his counterpart Mahela has scored. Malinga droppped a sitter when he was on 24 runs, but Herath bowled magical 15th over and sent him and Afridi back to pavillion on consecutive bowling.
After 15th over, Pakistan needed almost an asking rate of 10 runs per over. Sohail Tanvir tried in the company of Umar Akhmal, yet he could score only 8 runs.
The last four overs were bowled by Malinga, Mendis and Kulasekara, the three key bowlers of Sri Lanka, and their tidy length did not let Pakistan move beyond 117/7 in 20 overs.
Both the captains scored 42 runs. While Ajmal was the most expensive bowler of the match from both the teams, Herath and Mendis grabbed 5 wickets. Even Afridi and Raza Hasan failed to create panic, whereas Mathews, Kulasekara and Malinga were disciplined in approach and wre able to defend the low target.
Ultimately the better captain on the day took the team to victory.