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Posts Tagged ‘Tillakaratne Dilshan’

After that Wanderers game , I argued long and hard with those who thought it a great game of cricket. Nearly four years on, my views haven’t changed. In the days to come, many will speak of Rajkot as another classic. Some opportunists might even come out with commemorative DVDs, but nothing will change the facts. A game in which batsmen score at more than eight an over hardly constitutes an even tussle between bat and ball. Great entertainment, sure. Great cricket? Not really.

If you want to watch a real classic, watch how Pakistan chased down New Zealand’s total in the World Cup semi-final in 1992, or better still, go and watch footage of the greatest one-day match of all, Edgbaston 1999. Until there’s a tie in a World Cup final, that will remain the greatest cricket played in coloured clothes. The enormity of the occasion and what was at stake ensured as much.

There were two big differences between Rajkot and the Wanderers though.

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If you didn’t think Twenty20 was an Asian sport, you know the truth now. In South Africa two years ago, India and Pakistan contested a dazzling final. Now, Pakistan are back to try and clear the final hurdle, but instead of the Indians, they will face a wonderfully accomplished Sri Lankan side that have yet to be beaten in the competition. The Sri Lankans were pushed hardest by Ireland of all teams, but Pakistan will no doubt remember how they went toe-to-toe with them for much of their Super-Eights encounter.
This second semi-final was a tale of two innings, neither particularly well supported, but it was no contest to speak of. Pakistan had made a powerful statement of intent at Trent Bridge, and a day later at The Oval it was Sri Lanka’s turn to showcase their bowling might. The Twenty20 format hasn’t seen a bowling attack like this, and it will be fascinating to see how Pakistan’s batsmen go against them in the final.
As fabulous as Sri Lanka’s bowlers were though, there would have been no total to defend without the greatest innings ever played in a T20 international. Tillakaratne Dilshan had shown during the IPL why he’s the world’s most improved batsman and on a stage where the West Indians traditionally love to strut their stuff, he wrenched the game away from them with an innings that combined brute force, finesse and considerable nous. While Sanath Jayasuriya struggled horribly at the other end, Dilshan clobbered 12 fours and two sixes, maintaining a terrific tempo right through the innings. It took him 30 balls to score his half-century, and but for Angelo Matthews cornering the strike in the final over, a century was on the cards. It didn’t matter. The 96 was worth far more, as Sri Lanka finished with a score that Kumar Sangakkara would have been more than confident of defending.
Much has been made of the Muralitharan-Mendis-Malinga triumvirate, and with good reason, but today it was the fourth M, Mathews, that killed off West Indian hopes in the very first over. Xavier Marshall and Dwayne Bravo both played on, while Lendl Simmons moved too far across and lost his leg stump. Whatever Chris Gayle did afterwards, and he did finish with 63 from 50 balls, was a bit like spit in the rain. Murali wasn’t particularly economical, going for 29 while taking three wickets, but Mendis was once again nearly unplayable, taking 2 for 9.
Malinga went for a few before returning to end the innings with a searing yorker, but it was Mathews that deserved the most plaudits for his four-over stint that cost just 16 runs. He doesn’t do much with the ball, but his accuracy and a happy knack of taking wickets at opportune times has pushed Farveez Maharoof to the periphery.
When asked to preview the event, I picked Sri Lanka, but such have been the travails of Pakistan cricket that it would be a stone-hearted man that didn’t wish them well. It will be a real contrast in styles, with Sri Lankan consistency up against Pakistan’s mavericks. The heart says the mavericks will prevail, but the head is set on the Lankans, who have been different class all tournament.

If you didn’t think Twenty20 was an Asian sport, you know the truth now. In South Africa two years ago, India and Pakistan contested a dazzling final. Now, Pakistan are back to try and clear the final hurdle, but instead of the Indians, they will face a wonderfully accomplished Sri Lankan side that have yet to be beaten in the competition. The Sri Lankans were pushed hardest by Ireland of all teams, but Pakistan will no doubt remember how they went toe-to-toe with them for much of their Super-Eights encounter.

This second semi-final was a tale of two innings, neither particularly well supported, but it was no contest to speak of. Pakistan had made a powerful statement of intent at Trent Bridge, and a day later at The Oval it was Sri Lanka’s turn to showcase their bowling might. The Twenty20 format hasn’t seen a bowling attack like this, and it will be fascinating to see how Pakistan’s batsmen go against them in the final.

As fabulous as Sri Lanka’s bowlers were though, there would have been no total to defend without one of the greatest innings ever played in a T20 international. (more…)

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Hopefully, Younis Khan was watching tonight. Right up until the Sri Lankans had clinched victory, the camera kept panning to Muttiah Muralitharan in the dug-out. He rocked gently back and forth, nervous as a teenager before a date, and the celebratory jump over the hoardings when a Mitchell Johnson wide ended the game would have made the physio grimace. Try telling him that Twenty20 cricket is just “fun” or that winning doesn’t matter. As Sachin Tendulkar said after the Mumbai Indians’ early IPL exit, every game that you play counts for something. Else, you’re cheating those coming through the turnstiles.
Sri Lanka were superb today, and fully deserve to go through to the Super Eights. Once again, Australia were poor and the frailties against spin exposed by Shahid Afridi in Dubai not so long ago were thoroughly exploited by Ajantha Mendis. But for Johnson taking 21 off Murali’s final over – he had been immaculate till then – this would have been a rout. As with most batsmen who face Mendis for the first time, most of the Australians simply had no idea which way the ball was going to turn. With the unknown Isuru Udana also picking up two wickets, Australia were just caught cold. Lasith Malinga didn’t bowl particularly well, and Farveez Maharoof and Nuwan Kulasekara stayed on the bench, testament to the strength in bowling depth that the Lankans have.
The big question mark was always going to be their batting though. Sanath Jayasuriya is increasingly beginning to resemble Muhammad Ali in his Trevor Berbick phase, a fighter who has no rounds left in him, and there remain plenty of questions about the lower middle order. But while Jayasuriya has regressed, Tillakaratne Dilshan has become one of the leading exponents of the T20 game. Anyone that doubts the value of the IPL experience only needs to look his way. Having starred in the Delhi Daredevils’ campaign this year, he thrashed 53 from 32 balls to set up Sri Lanka’s victory charge at Trent Bridge. The only reason he didn’t win the man-of-the-match award was because Kumar Sangakkara’s half-century was pure class.
Australia’s bowling was all over the place. Brett Lee bowled 15 dot balls, but was carted for 39 from his remaining deliveries. Shane Watson, so inspirational for the Rajasthan Royals last year but kept away from the IPL this year, bowled filth and was treated accordingly. Australia may feel justified in prioritising the Ashes, but it’s no secret that the outstanding teams in the competition so far – India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies – all had a healthy IPL presence. By sacrificing that, Ponting and friends can now look forward to two weeks in beautiful Leicester.
Last week, I wrote that Sri Lanka would be the pick of the Asian teams, and I saw nothing today to make me change my mind. As long as the batsmen perform half-decently, they have the bowling arsenal to take out any side. Murali could be rocking another fortnight, while those that have disrespected this competition and this format explore the English countryside or take flights back home. Good riddance.

Hopefully, Younis Khan was watching tonight. Right up until the Sri Lankans had clinched victory, the camera kept panning to Muttiah Muralitharan in the dug-out. He rocked gently back and forth, nervous as a teenager before a date, and the celebratory jump over the hoardings when a Mitchell Johnson wide ended the game would have made the physio grimace. Try telling him that Twenty20 cricket is just “fun” or that winning doesn’t matter. As Sachin Tendulkar said after the Mumbai Indians’ early IPL exit, every game that you play counts for something. Else, you’re cheating those coming through the turnstiles.

Sri Lanka were superb today, and fully deserve to go through to the Super Eights. Once again, Australia were poor and the frailties against spin exposed by Shahid Afridi in Dubai not so long ago were thoroughly exploited by Ajantha Mendis. But for Johnson taking 21 off Murali’s final over – he had been immaculate till then – this would have been a rout. As with most batsmen who face Mendis for the first time, most of the Australians simply had no idea which way the ball was going to turn. With the unknown Isuru Udana also picking up two wickets, Australia were just caught cold. Lasith Malinga didn’t bowl particularly well, and Farveez Maharoof and Nuwan Kulasekara stayed on the bench, testament to the strength in bowling depth that the Lankans have.

The big question mark was always going to be their batting though. (more…)

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