After notching up contrasting wins in their opening Super Eight games, a stern test awaits the West Indies and Sri Lanka as they look to strengthen their semi-final chances in their Group 1 match of the ICC World Twenty20, here on Saturday.
West Indies edged out defending champions England by 15 runs in an exciting finish, while Sri Lanka won in dramatic fashion after a ‘Super Over’ was required to settle the clash with New Zealand on Thursday.
Both Sri Lanka and West Indies are known to raise the bar when it comes to performing at big-ticket ICC events and it would be interesting to see which of the two teams manages to go a notch higher in the battle on Saturday.
Both the sides know the conditions well but the Islanders could bank heavily on the home advantage.
The hosts need to quickly sort out their bowling woes if they fancy their chances of advancing to the semi-finals of the tournament as the New Zealand batsmen took their pace and spin attack to cleaners.
The form of Lasith Malinga, who has been very expensive in the competition so far, still remains a concern for Lanka.
The hosts would hope that Malinga gets his act together against the West Indies and is well supported by the likes of Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews.
Mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis’ return has also boosted the team and though he was off-colour against New Zealand, leaking 48 runs from his four overs taking just one wicket, the Lankan skipper would still be depending on him to deliver the goods on the slow Pallekele strip.
The return to form of opener Tillakaratne Dilshan also augurs well for the Lankan batting line-up as he single-handedly anchored the run-chase against New Zealand with his 53-ball 76.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara would again be expected to deliver the goods with the bat. Their lower middle-order also has enough fire power with the likes of Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne and Jeevan Mendis in the ranks.
The Calypso Charmers, on the other hand, boast of strong batting line-up, led by big hitting Chris Gayle.
Gayle helped Windies post a challenging total against a formidable English attack and, it seems, in the form of unheralded Johnson Charles, the Caribbean side’s opening woes have already been addressed.
Charles scored a belligerent 84 off just 56 balls with help of 10 well-timed fours and three sixes, while Gayle belted six fours and four sixes en-route to a 35-ball 58 to lay a solid platform. However, the middle-order failed to live up to the expectations.
The Windies possess a dangerous spin attack in spinner Sunil Narine, Gayle and Samuel Badree.
And with the Pallekele strip assisting the slow bowlers, West Indies skipper Darren Sammy could well be going in with the combination of three spinners and two specialist pacers as the trio came handy against the Englishmen.
The Sri Lankans, however, can fancy their chances against an erratic West Indian seam attack, which so far has looked pretty ordinary in the tournament, barring Ravi Rampaul.
Rampaul gave good account of his skills in the last match picking up two English wickets in his very first over.
Pacer Fidel Edwards has managed to produce early breakthroughs for the West Indies in both the group matches, but he has been accused of bowling far too many lose balls.
The rest of the West Indies pacers, including skipper Sammy, have been ineffective in the past outings and would certainly like to make amends against the Lankan juggernaut.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (c), Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Jeevan Mendis, Dilshan Munaweera, Akila Dananjaya, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (c), Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Fidel Edwards, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith.