The party is on for the home team fans. Sri Lanka, backed by 35,000 electrifying fans in the big bowl, won the bowlers-dominated first semifinal by 16 runs against 2009 champions
Pakistan to reach another final of a global event of ICC. Mahela Jayawardene & Co are now one match away from emulating their feat of 1996 when they won the ICC World Cup.
When many feared a reversal for the home team after they were restricted to 139 for 4, their bowlers brought them back in contention brilliantly to earn them their first T20 victory at the Premadasa Stadium in their fifth attempt. And that secured Sri Lanka their second World T20 final.
“We are really proud at the way the team has been progressing towards the target. There is a great atmosphere today. We are a very proud cricketing nation and people always support us and we hope they will always remain behind us to encourage us in playing good cricket,” said a soft-spoken Sri Lanka skipper Jayawardene in the post-match press conference.
“Kumar Sangakkara and I are very fortunate that we are going to play our fourth final in an ICC global event. Now we have to cross one more hurdle to make the cricket-loving people happy. We are really excited about Sunday’s [final] game,” he added.
The home skipper, who was adjudged player-of-the-match for his match-winning 42-run knock in difficult conditions, said that they were 15 to 20 runs short in their total but the bowlers did an excellent job against a strong Pakistan batting line-up to bring about the victory.
“It was not a winning score but a challenging one on this kind of wicket. We were 15 to 20 runs short but we picked up wickets at regular intervals, which helped us to win this tough match. Everybody is happy and in the end hard work paid off,” went on Mahela.
He also admitted that it was a tough call to play left-arm spinner Rangana Hearth, who picked up three vital wickets at crucial times to restrict Pakistan at 123, in place of Akila Dhananjaya but their decision finally proved to be a correct one.
“If you go through the records you see Rangana has a good record against Pakistan. It was a tough call for us. As you know, today is the birthday of Akila,” explained Mahela.
The Sri Lankan skipper also believes that this current team is better than the 2009 one that lost the final against Pakistan.
“The boys are now experienced enough to respond to different situations of this format and that’s why it is a better team than the one in 2009,” he observed.
Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez said that Sri Lanka played great cricket and they deserved this victory.
“They played great cricket and they fully deserved this win. I think our middle-order could not do well which was the main reason behind this defeat. The target of 140 should have been chased down though it was not easy to bat on this wicket,” rued Hafeez.
“True, we are disappointed with today’s loss but I’m happy with my team’s overall performance in the tournament,” he added.
-With The Daily Star input