In their semifinal game against the West Indies, Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat first for two reasons. One the West Indies are not good chasers if the score is beyond 150, due to their poor running between the wickets; and two if the forecast for bad weather came true, then usually the team, which batted first would hold the advantage, because major scoring in a chase is done in the death overs. In any case the Emerald Island cricketers have played better than any other team in the tournament. They have dependable and experienced batsmen, fine bowling combination, and they are not afraid to throw themselves in the field.
The Sri Lankan cricketers batted with purpose from the start. The first wicket partnership had produced 41 in 4 overs, when Kusal Perera got out. And though veterans Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara also got out soon, Sri Lanka didn’t lose focus. Unfortunately, however, these early dismissals dented the rate of scoring substantially in the middle overs. Tilakaratane Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne steadied the boat by some sensible batting, even if they curbed their natural instinct for aerial shots. Angelo Mathews, who came after the fall of Dilshan’s wicket continued with Thirimanne and together they added 30 runs in 3.3 overs to lift the rate of scoring. Just before the start of over no. 17, Thirimanne departed for a 35-ball 44 with Sri Lanka’s score reading 121/5. Mathews had Seekkuge Prasanna for company until the very end. In four overs the two added 39 runs, with Mathews doing the bulk of the scoring and Sri Lanka finished with 160/6.
West Indies began in explosive fashion with Dwayne Smith taking 17 runs off Nuwan Kulsekara’s first over. But skipper Lasith Malinga applied brakes at this point and by cleverly rotating his bowlers, allowed the next 17 runs to be scored from the following six overs. What Smith did in the opening over is normally expected from Chris Gayle, but the disinterested Gayle was content in making just 3 off 13 balls and his companion Lendl Simmons scored 4 off 8. Simmons was the third wicket to fall at 34 in 7.1 overs and West Indies still needed 127 for victory in less than 13 overs. Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo tried to revive the flagging West Indies innings until Bravo got out after a typically aggressive 19-ball 30 with the West Indies scoring reading 77/4. The victory target of 84 was too distant and had to be achieved in 6.4 overs. Sammy had joined Samuels but couldn’t get to face a single delivery, when hailstorm and thunder interrupted the match. The torrential rain that followed left no choice for the match officials to apply the Duckworth-Lewis method to decide the match, in which West Indies fell short by 27 runs.
One can say that the West Indies were unlucky but one look at the day’s proceedings will reveal that the Sri Lankan side was superior in every department and worthy winners in the end. They have entered the final for the second consecutive tournament and will meet the winners between India and South Africa in Sunday’s final at Mirpur.
For West Indies, it was a double whammy since their women also lost the semifinal against Australia in a match played earlier. At one time the West Indies women had the match within their grasp but the gritty Australians denied them victory. Electing to bat after winning the toss Australian women scored 140/5 in 20 overs, helped by contributions from Elyse Villani, Meg Lannings and a 21-ball 30 cameo from Alyssa Healy. The West Indies women put up a brave show with all their top order players coming with useful contributions. Kycia Knight made 21, Stephanie Taylor, 24, Deandra Dottin 40 and Stacy King 36. Especially important was a 78 run stand between Dottin and King, which came in 8.4 overs and created a scare for Australia. But when 20 were required in the remaining 11 balls, Dottin got out in the 19th over and with her dismissal went away the tempo of scoring. In the end West Indies fell short by 8 runs.
With both men’s and women’s final scheduled side by side, it was heartening to see the entire men’s team cheering their women team, while waiting for their match to begin. And when the men played against Sri Lanka a little while later, the West Indies women cricketers were seen in the stands to cheer for their men in turn. However it was a bad day that none of the two teams could progress to the final.