They might have some of the biggest hitters in world cricket, but Darren Sammy-led West Indies would be wary of their opponent`s quality spin attack, as they take on Sri Lanka in the first semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20.
In their first three matches of the series, Sri Lanka played with two spinners - Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayeke. Their move to include Rangana Herath in a must-win game against New Zealand, proved to be a master-stroke, as the left-arm spinner ripped through the Kiwi batting line-up with outstanding figures of 5/3 from 3.3 overs. As a result of his stupendous spell, the Black Caps were bundled out for just 86 runs, while chasing 119 to win.
The West Indies have a much stronger batting line-up than the Kiwis. On their day, power-hitters like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russel can demolish any bowling line up in the world. But as we saw against India, the Windies aren`t comfortable against spin bowling.
Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin were spot on with their line and length, and by the time the Windies batsmen could come up with a strategy, India had already bowled 12-13 overs, and the pressure to score quick runs in the death overs, led to their collapse.
On the other hand, despite having a formidable bowling line-up, complacency would be the last thing in the minds of the Lankans, as they paid for it, when these two sides locked horns in the final of the previous edition.
In the T20 final played at R Premadasa Stadium in 2012, Ajantha Mendis took four wickets and West Indies – the favourites to win the tournament, were on the verge of losing the match. How bad had been their run scoring, can be ascertained from the fact that by the end of 12 overs, West Indies had just 48 runs on the board. It was Marlon Samuels` incredible counter-attack from there onwards, which got them to a decent total. The Sri Lankans could not recover from the late assault, and lost the match in front of the home crowd by 36 runs.
The major concern for Sri Lanka would be the form of their key batsmen. While the spinners have come to their rescue, right throughout the series, the lack of consistency in the batting department, is something which has made the job of the bowlers tougher. Sri Lanka need veterans like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara to make significant contributions in the semi-final.
The good thing from West Indies` perspective is that most of their key batsmen have found their momentum. Sammy and Bravo couldn`t contribute much with the bat in the first two matches, but it was this pair which stitched two quick partnerships which took them to the semi-finals.
No team has ever successfully defended their World Twenty20 title, and the West Indies will have to play their heart out against the Lankans, in order to get a step closer of doing so.