How to solve a riddle like Chris Gayle– is the question facing Sri Lanka today in Bengaluru and if they solve it as early into the game as possible, the defending champions could win and throw a real claim to a semi-final spot. England certainly couldn’t as the marauding opener smashed a record 11 sixes [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Lankans will look for a win against the West Indies


How to solve a riddle like Chris Gayle– is the question facing Sri Lanka today in Bengaluru and if they solve it as early into the game as possible, the defending champions could win and throw a real claim to a semi-final spot.

England certainly couldn’t as the marauding opener smashed a record 11 sixes to single-handedly thrashed Englismen caught like deer in the headlights on Wednesday.

And come Sunday he could be looking for similar exploits against a depleted Sri Lankan attack when the two island nations battle it out in their second Super 10 clash here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

The West Indian juggernaut has been hugely successful playing for Royal Challengers, Bangalore in the IPL and his fans here in Bengaluru, where he calls his ‘home away from home’ would be praying that their man is in the mood to rock them once again.

With Lasith Malinga–one of those iconic players in the T20 format like Gayle taking a early flight home without making any part in the tournament with a nagging knee-injury, Angelo Mathews will look to his inexperienced bowling attack to unriddle the puzzle, before the left-hander settles in and run rampage. But coach admits the riddle is tough one to solve.

“His absence has a huge impact and one got to be realistic. It’s a different side at the moment but it’s exciting talent. Lasith is not just about experience but it’s just brilliant execution of skills and how long he has done that death bowling well to finish off things so well. Finishing an innings well is so important to keep the momentum and now we got to find a somebody to do that,” coach Graham Ford said when asked about the impact of Malinga’s absence.

Because picking him early is the only way that Sri Lanka could beat the 2012 champions who with their imposing opening win sent a strong message to the rest of the teams eyeing the crown, that they are here for business.

“We need to come up with one or two plans to try and neutralize some of the big guns they have. We are quietly checking about few things and execution of those things to neutralize those big guns are important,” coach Graham Ford explains when asked what plans his charges got to stop the destructive opener.

Sri Lanka, whose bowling took plenty of beating at the hand of Afghanistan particularly into the second part of Afghans innings conceding as many as 106 runs in the final ten overs, needs to show lots of character against an intimidating West Indies side Right-arm medium pacers Nuwan Kulasekera and Thisara Perera’s lengths were very predictable and were easily deposited into the crowds by the Afghanistan batsmen, a huge worry going into today’s blockbuster clash.

Rangana Herath showed lots of character and could be key for Sri Lanka’s success against West Indies but might needs a second spinner in Sachithra Senanayake to contain a possible Gayle force.

But for Sri Lanka, the good news is TM Dilshan back in form. Like Gayle, even though he was not as intimidating as Gayle, Dilshan was in firm control of Sri Lanka’s chase on Thursday. With Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka seems to have solve the conundrum surroundings the openers but the lack of stability in the middle order is a bit of worry going into a high-octane clash.

This will leave skipper Angelo Mathews of a big weight on his shoulders to hold the middle order batting together in addition to his economical bowling. The 28-year-old took the new ball against Afghanistan and also provided the finishing flourish. “People felt that he was out of form but he has been playing superbly at the nets and the other night he put out a masterclass. It’s nice when a senior player bats a long period and the younger players bats around him but I do hope some of those youngsters start to do the same thing that Dilshan did the other night,” Ford said.

However West Indies is not all about Gayle, they have more than capable batsmen in Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Russells, Darren Sammy and Dinesh Ramdin and bowling looked solid with Suleiman Benn, Sammy, Russells Samuel Badree and Jerome Taylor.

The pitch looks an absolute flatbed, meaning putting as many runs as possible on the board is vital but even that would not guarantee a win as the England’s successful chase of 230 against South Africa suggested.

“Looks like a good surface typical Bangalore runs. We are all excited about. Tomorrow’s game becomes very important for us especially the way the group is turning out,” West Indies skipper Darren Sammy said. “Before we left West Indies, we had a look at the schedule and the coach mentioned that every game should be played like a final and tomorrow is no different.

Sammy led West Indies to victory at the expense of Sri Lanka in 2012 World Twenty20 final and Sri Lanka cruised to the finals beating West Indies two years back on their way to win the title.

Sammy says that his players IPL experience will play a key role in their quest to wear the crown.

“A lot of players have played IPL here and know the surface. It’s a plus for us. Chris has played 6-7 matches here and we know the conditions in India, but T20 is about momentum every ball is an event, you get a wicket, next ball you could go for six and the momentum changes. It’s about winning those key moments. Yes we plan for the opposition. We look at the state of the ground and the stats but we just focus on what we can do and I know what we could do well and be destructive,” he added.

Meanwhile leg spinner Jeffrey Vandersay who was left out of the original squad to make way to include Lahiru Thirimanne/Suranga Lakmal left for Bangalore yesterday, to replace injured fast bowler Lasith Malinga. The change was approved by the ICC, Saturday morning.

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