Sri Lanka and Pakistan shared their Twenty20 series in June. Photo: AFP/dawn.com
Sri Lanka goes into its World Twenty20 semi-final against Pakistan on Thursday night full of confidence, having gone through the Super Eights stage of the competition unbeaten to top Group 1. They also have a good pedigree in the 20 over game, having made the final in 2009, before reaching the last four in the West Indies two years ago.
As is often the case in the subcontinent, the host nation has benefited greatly from have good spinners in their side, with Ajantha Mendis the joint second leading wicket taker in the tournament and 18 year old Akila Dananjaya making a mark in his maiden international competition. They will also be boosted by the return to form of pace spearhead Lasith Malinga , who claimed 5/31 to rip through England’s top order in his side’s most recent appearance. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene has led the way with the bat for the tournament hosts, having collected 168 runs at an average of 42 to date. His past three scores have been 42, 65* and 44. Despite relying heavily on ‘traditional’ shots to score his runs, he has been instrumental in seeing his side accumulate the highest first six over score in eight of their past nine matches.
Pakistan looked like one of the teams to beat in the tournament after scoring wins over New Zealand, Bangladesh and South Africa before a humiliating eight wicket defeat to arch rival India left them on the brink of elimination in the Super Eights. A strong performance built on a half century by Nasir Jamshed and the efforts of their slow bowlers against Australia was enough to see them advance at the expense of their nemesis however. While Saeed Ajmal and Raza Hasan spun webs around George Bailey’s side, they may not be quite as effective against Sri Lanka, who have historically played the spinners well. With that in mind, fast bowler Yasir Arafat could be recalled to the side after missing the match against the Aussies.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan have met in nine Twenty20 Internationals, with Pakistan holding a 6-3 advantage courtesy of wins in four of the past five meetings between the pair, although the two match series in June was ended 1-1. Undoubtedly the most important match between the pair was Pakistan's eight wicket win in the World Twenty20 Final at Lords in 2009. The home side has a poor record at the RPS ground, having lost all four Twenty20 International matches that it has played there.
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