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Picture: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP
Ajantha Mendis bamboozled the Zimbabwean batsman. Picture: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP
Sri Lanka  faces the West Indies  at Pallekele on Saturday night, with the winner likely to seal their progression to the World Twenty20 semi-finals. The tournament hosts needed a super over to beat New Zealand in their first Super Eights match after scores were level after 40 overs, while the West Indies overcame a late scare to beat England by 15 runs in their most recent fixture.

Since opening the tournament with an 82 run drubbing of Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka has failed to flatter, going down to South Africa by 32 runs in a rain affected match before being taken to the limit against the Black Caps. Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara have all shown form with the bat but it is their bowling that is of greater concern. Limited overs specialist Lasith Malinga has collected just three wickets from his side’s first three matches and is conceding in excess of nine runs an over. After bamboozling the Zimbabwean batsman on the way to collecting 6/8 – the best figures in Twenty20 history – Ajantha Mendis was taken to the cleaners against New Zealand, conceding 48 runs from his four overs. If the hosts are to find their best form, they need their best bowlers to step up.

Windies ace Chris Gayle has sent an ominous warning to the rest of the team’s in the competition with his form over the past week, collecting half centuries in each of his two visits to the crease. His opening partner Johnson Charles made his mark against England, belting 84 runs from just 56 balls, and is another player that will capitalise on a below par effort from Sri Lanka with the ball. Although he has taken only one wicket to date in the tournament, canny spinner Sunil Narine has conceded just seven runs an over and will look to tie down the opposition batsman again in Pallekele.

The West Indies have not beaten Sri Lanka in any of the three Twenty20 International’s between the pair. On each occasion Sri Lanka successfully defended a total and the team batting first here is likely to have a distinct advantage; six of the eight Twenty20 Internationals played at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium have been won by the team batting first, with another finishing in a tie.

England  and New Zealand  meet in the days other Super Eight match, with the winner set to drop out of contention for a semi-final berth.

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