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T20 World Cup

West Indies eye run-fest against Sri Lanka to keep title defence alive

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West Indies face Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Thursday with their World Cup fate in the balance.

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West Indies are still alive in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 but know that it’s now or never if their title defence is to continue.

The defending World Cup champions take on Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi on Thursday knowing that it’s not just a win that’s required to keep them in the competition, but probably a massive win.

Losses to England and South Africa in the opening two games took qualification hopes out of their own hands. But it’s still not out of the question that Kieron Pollard’s side can reach the semi-finals.

To do so they must beat Sri Lanka on Thursday and then Australia on Saturday to stand a chance. But even then it could come down to net run rate, and the nature of the capitulation against England at the start of the tournament has left the Caribbean outfit with a lot of ground to make up.

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"In life and sport, nothing is impossible," captain Pollard said on Wednesday. “What I can safely say is yes, the guys are confident.

"We know exactly what is needed in terms of from a run rate perspective and we'll take all things into consideration when the match starts.

"It's our opportunity now, guys can take off the shackles that has been holding us back in terms of obviously our batting performance. There's no secret about that."

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A hammering of Sri Lanka would pull the West Indies back into contention, but it’s going to be no easy feat against a bowling attack that has impressed throughout the tournament.

Wanindu Hasaranga in particular will be eyeing more wickets if West Indies go after him.

The leg-spin bowler is the top wicket-taker in the tournament so far with 14, including a hat-trick against South Africa.

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Fixture details

  • The match: Sri Lanka v West Indies, Match 35
  • Time: 18:00 local time, Thursday 4 November 2021
  • Venue: Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

The teams

Both teams are expected to be unchanged for the fixture in Sharjah. Sri Lanka’s combination of top-class spin and high pace has been an impressive feature of the tournament so far, while West Indies will hope that their astonishingly deep batting line-up can fire them to a huge total.

Probable Sri Lanka XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dasun Shanaka (captain), Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara.

Probable West Indies XI: Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard (captain), Andre Russell, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Akeal Hosein, Ravi Rampaul

Key players

Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka: Top level spin bowling is West Indies’ Achilles heel, and Sri Lanka have one of the very best in the tournament in the shape of Hasaranga. If Sri Lanka’s main man with the ball can weave his way through the West Indies top order then that will be a big step towards winning the game.

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Evin Lewis, West Indies: The West Indies bat so deep that if they can get off to a good start then there’s little issue taking risks in the second half of their innings. It could be that one of Dwayne Bravo and Jason Holder comes in as low as nine, so a big start from the in-form and fast-scoring Lewis would set the West Indies up for a massive score that they desperately need. Lose early wickets and suddenly the pressure is on the middle and lower order to rebuild.

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Ladder situation

Sri Lanka cannot qualify for the semi-finals.

For the West Indies, they must win their two remaining matches (this game and against Australia on Saturday) and hope that England beat South Africa in the final game of the group.

In that circumstance it will come down to NRR, and the West Indies currently have the worst in the group on -1.598. A hammering, most likely of Sri Lanka, is required.

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Match Highlights: England v West Indies

What they said

Mickey Arthur, Sri Lanka head coach: "I sit here really comfortable with our bowling structure. Maybe one seamer can be a left-arm quick, but Dushmantha Chameera is world-class at the moment. I love our two mystery spinners - they give us that little kind of mystique if you like - I think our fifth and sixth bowlers are adequate, so I'm comfortable with that. Our batting is getting better and better all the time, and I guess for me it's just striving to get that batting working as a well-oiled machine. We fielded well at times, and one of our goals and ethos as a team is to become the best fielding side in the world.”

Kieron Pollard, West Indies captain: "It's not only us that have struggled on these wickets, but other players - world-class players - have struggled as well. They've just been able find a rhythm, and we haven't been able to cross that 143-run barrier. The teams that have done well have assessed conditions well."

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