Despite a very attainable target of 140 runs, Sri Lanka was able to hold off Pakistan in the first semifinal at the T20 World Cup. The host team delighted the home crowd with a display of clutch bowling to come out victorious, 139/4 to 123/7.
They will now await the winner of the Australia and West Indies semifinal match.
The triumph was not purely based on skill, Sri Lanka did receive a few key breaks. Umpire Walt Tucker blew a call when Sri Lankan bowler Angelo Matthews clearly bowled to the left of the zone.
It wasn’t called and it allowed Sri Lanka to stop Pakistan’s momentum. Sri Lankan bowlers had to overcome less-than-perfect defense in the grounds, though Lasith Malinga was notably shaky.
His performance was up-and-down throughout the match. He continually fumbled and stumbled in the field, but his bowling helped to spur Sri Lanka to the win. He allowed only 19 runs in four overs, so his fielding gaffes were much easier to absorb.
Perhaps the back-breaker came in the 14th over. Rangana Herath stumped Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi consecutively. The crowd exploded for the Sri Lankans at this point, and the potential outcome of the match became more apparent.
Despite a late push, the Pakistanis couldn’t overcome a slow start from their batsmen. Nuwan Kulasekara closed the match out, and Sri Lanka moved on with the 16-run win.
The Man of the Match was the Sri Lankan captain and 2006 ICC Captain of the Year, Mahela Jayawardene. He produced 42 runs in the match.
With the atmosphere in Sri Lanka, it is hard to imagine Australia or the West Indies overcoming the host team. Australia is my pick in the second semifinal match, but they were snuffed by the bowlers of Pakistan prior to the semi final.
Sri Lanka's bowlers proved to be far superior to the Pakistanis. Australia's batsmen will struggle to score runs against them. Barring some unforeseen events, injuries or uncharacteristic performances, Sri Lanka will be crowned the champion on Sunday.
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