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‘Maybe God wants Mahela, Kumar to leave on a high’

Angelo Mathews, in Dhaka, on Thursday

Dhaka: With 81 needed off 37 balls, the West Indies needed divine intervention and big-hitting Darren Sammy’s help if they wanted to win Thursday’s World T20 semi-final match against Sri Lanka, at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.

The heavens did open up, only to shower heavy rains and even heavier hailstones, and the West Indian captain couldn’t even face a single ball. The match didn’t resume and the Lankans tip-toed into the final with a 27-run victory via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Chasing Sri Lanka’s 160 for six, West Indies were 80 for four after 13.5 overs when the rains interrupted. The men from the Caribbean couldn’t get off to a good start and kept losing wickets. Dwayne Smith (17), Chris Gayle (3) and Lendl Simmons (4) hardly contributed. Dwayne Bravo (30 off 19 balls) was looking dangerous before being caught by Mahela Jayawardene at deep square leg off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara.

Almost all the Lankan bowlers bowled with accuracy as the mighty West Indians, who are also the defending champions, couldn’t deal in the big shots.

Lasith Malinga, who was captaining the side once again after regular T20 skipper Dinesh Chandimal opted out of the game in order to let his team field the ‘best XI’, was unplayable. He bowled two overs, gave away just five runs and took the wickets of Smith and Gayle. Sachithra Senanayake and Rangana Herath were economical too and it made all the difference in the end.

Ironically, West Indies got 17 runs from the first over of their innings, bowled by Kulasekara, but then went into a shell managing only 17 more from their next six overs.

Earlier, Tillekaratne Dilshan, with a run-a-ball 39 was the top-scorer among the Lankan top four that included stalwarts Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. It was only because of Lahiru Thirimanne’s 35-ball 44 and Angelo Mathews’s 40 off 23 balls that Sri Lanka got past the 150-mark.

In the end, it seemed that Sri Lanka’s decision to bat first after winning the toss proved to be a masterstroke. Did they have the weather in mind while taking the decision? Captain Malinga replied in the negative. “We didn’t have any prior idea about the weather... We had decided to bat first because our batsmen are in fine form and we have a strong bowling attack. We were just looking forward to the batsmen doing well at the top so that the bowlers could defend. That was for us a better option,” Malinga said after the match.

Malinga praised Angelo and Lahiru’s efforts. “We had a good start before losing our way somewhat during the middle overs... But Angelo and Lahiru batted really well to get us back on track and take us to 160.”

More than the rain interruption, Malinga feels that it was some superb bowling by his team that won them the match. “While defending, the first six overs were always going to be crucial and we bowled exceptionally. The bowlers did a great job and that’s why were in such a position when the rain came.”

After making it to the final of yet another major tournament, Malinga as the captain of the side wants improvement to make the special match even more special. “It is going to be a big game — the final. It is always very special to get into the final because we work so hard. We always try to improve our performance and that is what we would like to do on Sunday,” he said.

While Malinga planned for the big match, the big man, Sammy, was left a disappointed captain. He admitted that he was dearly looking forward to lift the title again. “It’s a disappointing result for us...

“But credit to Sri Lanka for the way they batted after the toss went in their favour. We had a good run in this tournament, but in this match we had to lose to the Duckworth-Lewis system. That’s life and we will have to move on.”

Asked if he was praying to the God after the rain interruption, a smiling Sammy said: “We are a praying team and our prayers had been answered in our earlier matches... But two Sri Lankan gentlemen (Jayawardene and Sangakkara), who have given so much to their team and the game on the whole, must have also prayed.... Maybe God wants them to leave on a high.”

Man of the Match Mathews, however, summed it up simply by saying “Yes, we would have liked it to be a full match and it could even have been a close match... But I think we deserve to be in the final. We have played some good cricket.”

Such ferocious was the hailstone shower that Sammy said: “I was intrigued... I thought people were pelting stones at us.”

Well, someone from above did pelt (hail)stones at West Indies’ chances even as Sri Lanka ‘stormed’ into the final.