Sri Lanka v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20 semi-final, 1630 GMT
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By Peter Exley
Chris Gayle has called for his team to be shown more respect ahead of their semi-final showdown with Sri Lanka today at The Oval.
Gayle’s team have been the surprise package of the tournament so far, sending hosts England crashing out and recording a shock victory over reigning champions India. The West Indies skipper, speaking after his side beat England to book their place in the semi-finals, said that he wanted to forget the majority of their dismal tour and give their fans something to celebrate:
"We are happy to be in the semi final after the disaster of the tour here in England, we wanted to give the fans something to cheer about, it is all about having belief to get the job done."
He went on to send a warning to the Sri Lankans by saying:
"A lot of teams fear us to be honest with you, we were written off from the start of the tournament and now we are in the semi final. If you respect us then we will give respect back, but if you cross the line then we will too."
Kumar Sangakkara and his team would do well to take heed of this message as the young, vibrant West Indies team has produced some dazzling displays on their way to this stage of the competition. Dwayne Bravo has particularly impressed, proving his worth as one of the best all-rounders in the world. His stunning display of four wickets and 66 not out from just 36 balls saw his side home against India and he will be hoping to recreate that kind of form when his side meet Sri Lanka.
Of course, this semi-final will be a rematch of the Group C game between the two sides which saw Sri Lanka by 15 runs. Veteran batsmen Sanath Jayasuriya scored a swash-buckling 81 and the West Indian bowlers will have to be wary of a top four that are in very good form that includes leading run scorer in the tournament, Tillekeratne Dilshan and former captain Mahela Jayawardene. However, the match could all come down to the battle of the two flamboyant left handed openers, Chris Gayle and Jayasuriya.
Gayle is due another big score after demolishing Brett Lee earlier in the tournament and Jayasuriya will be looking to avenge his first ball dismissal against New Zealand in their final Super Eight game. If both players come off, then expect fireworks in a thrilling contest of two of the world’s most spectacular batsmen.
The bowling attacks of each team may be the difference in this equally balanced game. Sri Lanka have arguably the best and most feared attack in world cricket at the moment with the mystery of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis still finding ways to bamboozle the world’s batsmen. Lasith Malinga will send down his own variety of toe-crushing yorkers and slower balls that have, so far, seemed unplayable. This could be the downfall for a West Indies team that have been known to capitulate on a spectacular scale, especially with an inexperienced and inconsistent top order.
West Indies could be without spearhead Fidel Edwards who is a major injury doubt for the game after picking up a back problem in the warm-up before the match against England. His pace will surely be missed as it could have caused a few problems with the Sri Lankan batting order who are not used to facing extreme pace on their slow sub-continental pitches of home. It is not yet known who will replace him in the starting line-up yet, Darren Sammy filling the void in the final Super Eight match; however they may opt for the extra pace of Lionel Baker on the swift pitch at The Oval.
Sri Lanka go into the semi-final with a perfect record, however the shock defeat of South Africa last night proves that the form book means nothing when it comes down the sudden death rounds of the tournament and the men in maroon will be confident that they can cause another upset.
© Cricket World 2009