Chandimal’s men will be more than a little wary of the defending champion

When things fall in place for West Indies, they seem to do so with some force. Two years ago, it bore few signs of a champion side, squeezing into the knockouts with a single point from the second group stage, and yet bulldozed over its opponents in the semifinal and the final.

Here, an hour into its quarterfinal-like skirmish with Pakistan on Tuesday, grip over the contest had steadily loosened until Darren Sammy and Dwayne Bravo batted as if hitting sixes was going out of fashion. It was the same spirited pair that, seething from a perceived insult, had sucker-punched Australia the previous week.

All of a sudden, without Kieron Pollard here or Chris Gayle going berserk, West Indies is now a raging leviathan of the ICC World Twenty20, laying waste to anything in its path.

Sri Lanka, thus, will be more than a little wary as it travels north to the capital for the semifinal engagement at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium here on Thursday.

The fixture recalls the final of the last edition, a match, it is fair to presume, Sri Lanka still carries the scars of. That was a title the host nation genuinely believed was its own, and defeat would have hurt worse than any blow on the shin off Marlon Samuels’s bat.

Recent good form

There is encouragement, however, to be derived from recent form. Sri Lanka topped Group 1 in Chittagong, losing only once, and that by virtue of an extraordinary innings from Alex Hales. Nuwan Kulasekara has swung the ball, taking early wickets, while Lasith Malinga — not as quick as he was three years ago — is still a painful adversary at the close.  

Sri Lanka will be most pleased by the fortitude shown to prevail over New Zealand. Rangana Herath, playing his first game of the competition (which is inexplicable) in Ajantha Mendis’s stead, had the Kiwis gasping as Sri Lanka emphatically defended a low total.

Mendis has four wickets (three of them against the Netherlands) from his three matches, at beyond 10 runs an over. His team finally appears to have realised that persisting with him was folly.

Pitches in Dhaka have been drier and harder than they were in the port city where Sri Lanka was based all along, but conditions are still not foreign.

This is much the same side that won the Asia Cup at this venue last month, with convincing defeats of India and Pakistan en route.

Chance to capitalise

But West Indies will sense an opportunity in the unconvincing state of Sri Lanka’s batting. With the exception of flashes of brilliant ball-striking from Kusal Perera and one firm innings from Mahela Jayawardene, there has been little to be enthused by.

Samuel Badree and Krishmar Santokie will fancy their chances of breaking through early; if Sri Lanka dawdles through the Powerplay overs, teeing off against Sunil Narine will be a formidable challenge.

West Indies may look at its own batting group with half a frown, but knowing the players — “by nature, we are all laid-back individuals,”

Bravo said on Tuesday — they will barely be worried, all the time happy in the belief that someone will simply walk in and belt the ball into Dhaka airport.

The teams (from):

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawrdene, Kumar Sangakkara, Kusal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, and Seekkuge Prasanna.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt.), Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Denesh Ramdin, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree, Krishmar Santokie, Ravi Rampaul, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, and Sheldon Cottrell.

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