Sri Lanka’s Semifinal Win Guarantees New Twenty20 World Champion

Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by 16 runs to become the first host nation to reach the final of cricket’s World Twenty20 tournament.

The Sri Lankan bowlers stifled Pakistan in Colombo last night, holding the opposition to 31 runs in the last five overs and a total of 123-7 in reply to the host nation’s 139-4 off its 20 overs.

Sri Lanka, which has lost three finals at International Cricket Council tournaments in the past five years, will face the winner of today’s second semifinal between Australia and the West Indies in two days. Pakistan’s defeat means there will be a new world champion in cricket’s shortest format.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, who was also named man of the match, said in comments on the tournament’s website. “At the beginning of the match, we felt that 140 was a par score, not a winning score. It was a challenge.”

Jayawardene won the toss and elected to bat, combining with fellow opener Tillakaratne Dilshan for 63 runs before getting caught on 42 by Raza Hasan off Shahid Afridi. Dilshan made 35 before he was trapped leg before wicket by Umar Gul.

Pakistan, which beat Sri Lanka in the 2009 World Twenty20 final, brought on Gul and Saeed Ajmal to bowl the last five overs and pressure the batsmen. The plan restricted the Sri Lankans to 23 runs until the final over, which went for 16 runs.

With Pakistan chasing the second-lowest semifinal victory target in the event’s four editions, Sri Lanka fast bowler Lasith Malinga gave up only 19 runs in his four overs. That included five from the second-last set of the match to leave Pakistan needing 23 from the final six balls.

Top Wicket-Taker

Rangana Herath claimed 3-25. Fellow spinner Ajantha Mendis took 2-17 to join Australia’s Shane Watson with a tournament-leading 11 wickets. Captain Mohammad Hafeez led Pakistan with 42 runs, while Umar Akmal finished 29 not out.

“We lost some wickets in the middle order and that is the reason we could not get back into the game,” Hafeez said. “I believe 140 should have been chased, but unfortunately we could not do that.”

In addition to losing the 2009 Twenty20 final at Lord’s, Sri Lanka was beaten in the 2007 and 2011 one-day World Cup finals, by Australia and India, respectively.

Unlike the previous three, Sri Lanka will have home advantage this time at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium.

“Four finals is amazing,” added Jayawardene. “One final was in Barbados, one final was in England and the last final was in Mumbai. This time we are playing at the Premadasa, and we will approach it differently.”

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