Being in the final of one ICC final is a big deal, says Sri Lanka captain, as he gets ready to play his fourth one
Sri Lanka won through to its fourth final in an ICC tournament in the last five years, and even though it has found a title elusive since its triumph in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996, Mahela Jayawardena was understandably proud of his team’s accomplishments.
Sri Lanka squeezed out Pakistan by 16 runs in a low-scoring first semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 on Thursday night, and will face either Australia or the West Indies in Sunday’s title clash.
“It’s an amazing feeling, I am proud of the boys,” said Mahela Jayawardena, the captain who was also named the Man of the Match. “We had great support, the crowd just kept shouting and cheering us up. We are a proud nation and everyone will be behind us on Sunday.”
Sri Lanka posed 139 for 4 and Jayawardena said it wasn’t necessarily a total that his team was particularly comfortable with. “At the beginning of the match, we felt that 140 was a par score, not a winning score. It was a challenge. Having looked at the other matches, we felt that the guys were struggling to get there unless you get a good start,” he said. “We felt we were short by probably 15-20 runs. The way we started, we should have finished better. The only way we could have challenged them was by picking up wickets, which we did well.”
“We needed to back our ability. When you see a batting line-up like Pakistan, you try to pick up wickets as much as possible. On a slow track, you try and bowl straight and the guys did that obviously,” said Jayawardena. “The first six overs were crucial for us. We varied the pace and made them take risks. Then the spinners came and did the job for us.
“Chasing runs always going to be tough in a big game. Hafeez batted well in the first ten overs. Picking up wickets was the crucial thing for us. They were playing one batsman short today as they went with the additional bowler. We knew if we kept picking wickets, we had a chance and that’s what we did. I back guys like Lasith (Malinga) and Kule (Nuwan Kulasekara) to deliver and that’s what we got.”
Jayawardena handed over the captaincy to Kumar Sangakkara for the last Super Eights game against England because he was sitting on a one-match penalty for slow over rate. He admitted that the thought of his team not completing its overs in time did cross his mind. “It was going through my mind before the game. But it was important that we win this game. We knew the spinners will play a big part and the time factor was crucial,” said Jayawardena, then turned his attention to the fact that he would be playing his fourth ICC final on Sunday. “Four finals is amazing. In one’s career, someone is lucky to play one final, but we have been involved in four big finals. We have to approach it in a different way. One final was in Barbados, one final was in England and the last final was in Mumbai. This time we are playing at the Premadasa, and we will approach it differently.”
In keeping with the horses for courses policy that most teams have employed at various stages in the competition, Sri Lanka left out Akila Dananjaya and instead brought in Rangana Herath, the left-arm spinner. Herath responded brilliantly with figures of 3 for 25, his victims including Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s top-scorer, as well as Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi.
“He’s been brilliant against Pakistan, obviously Pakistan have had problems playing left- arm spin” said Jayawardena. “That was a tough call, it was Akila’s birthday today as well and he was disappointed when I told him that he wasn’t playing. But we felt that the two experienced spinners (Herath and Ajantha Mendis) would guide us. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. I am glad it paid off today.”