Colombo, Oct 3: The first semi-final of ICC World Twenty20 2012 could be termed as the "Battle of spinners." Sri Lanka and Pakistan, possessing some of world's best spinners could decide as to who will reach the October 7 final at the same venue, R Premadasa Stadium.
There is little doubt that Saeed Ajmal is currently the best Twenty20 International spinner. His variations have flummoxed the best batsmen. And he will be under the spotlight again on Thursday night.
If Pakistan's main spin weapon is Ajmal, there is now the emergence of young left-arm spinner Raza Hasan, who won the Man-of-the-match honour in victory over Australia on Tuesday. Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik's offspin, the legspin of Shahid Afridi will be on view.
If Pakistan are loaded with spin riches, there is no dearth of such talent in Sri Lankan ranks as well. Ajantha Mendis is still a mystery to some. And now there is the addition of young Akila Dananjaya who too is similar to Mendis. The 18-year-old Dananjaya has a bagful of tricks. Jeevan Mendis too will be handy with his legspinners.
Ajantha Mendis has so far taken nine wickets. He is third in the table. Ajmal has eight and Malinga too has eight.
Apart from spin each have top fast bowlers in Lasith Malinga and Umar Gul. Pakistan bowled 18 overs of spin against Australia and we could again see majority of overs from slow bowlers even though Sri Lanka batsmen are good against the spinners.
Two subcontinent teams in the first semi-final have ensured that there will be an Asian outfit in the final on Sunday. For Pakistan, they are in the last-four for the fourth successive time and had won the trophy once (2009 in England beating Sri Lanka).
Pakistan will be a tad worried about batting. They have not put up tall scores in the tournament. This is a knockout game and their batters need to fire. Opener Imran Nazir has excelled in patches and Nasir Jamshed is their top scorer with 144.
Sri Lanka don't have such issues to address. Tillakaratne Dilshan and captain Mahela Jayawardene have been doing a fine job at the top of the order. Jayawardene is number five with 168 in the tournament's highest run-getters. Dilshan has 144 and Kumar Sangakkara 133.
Spin could decide the fate of this game and on current form, conditions, the hosts hold a slight edge.
Sri Lanka's path to Semi-finals
Group Stage (Group C)
Beat Zimbabwe by 82 runs
Lost to South Africa by 32 runs
Super Eight (Group 1, topped group with all-win record, 3 wins, 6 points)
Beat New Zealand in Super Over after match tied
Beat West Indies by 9 wickets
Beat England by 19 runs
Pakistan's path to Semi-finals
Group Stage (Group D)
Beat New Zealand by 13 runs
Beat Bangladesh by 8 wickets
Super Eight (Group 2, finished second in group on better net run rate over India. 2 wins, 4 points)
Beat South Africa by 2 wickets
Lost to India by 8 wickets
Beat Australia by 32 runs
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Akila Dananjaya, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne.
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat, Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanvir.
Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Rod Tucker (Australia)
Third umpire: Ian Gould (England)
Fourth umpire: Steve Davis (Australia)
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Match starts at 7.00 PM IST
Second semi-final on October 5, Australia Vs West Indies, from 7.00 PM IST
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