The ICC World Twenty20 2012, currently being played in Sri Lanka, will hold its final match this Sunday in Colombo. Sri Lanka, always a dangerous team at home, will be one of the contenders and will face West Indies, a team that has seen something of a revival in recent times. While it can’t be denied that both these teams aren’t as great as they used to be, their current form indicates that the match is sure to be a nail biter. For people that haven’t been following the tournament or the game of cricket in general, ESPN Cricinfo will offer a free stream of the contest so now would be the time to experience the biggest match of the shortest and, according to many, most exciting format of the game.
Sri Lanka is a team built upon three greats: the merciless striker Tillakaratne Dilshan, the freakishly versatile Kumar Sangakkara, and the limitlessly stylish Mahela Jayawardene. All three players are the stalwarts of the Sri Lankan lineup and anytime the team posts a gigantic batting total, these three are always the men involved. If West Indies can dislodge this trio quickly, the rest of the Sri Lankan side is talented but relatively inexperienced. As for the bowling, Sri Lanka will turn to the impressive Rangana Herath, the deadly but out-of-form Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis, holder of the best single innings haul for a T20 match and the current leading wicket taker in the tournament. This will be Sri Lanka’s fourth final in five years, a remarkable show of consistency, but it is worrisome that they have failed to take home the gold each and every time.
West Indies, on the other hand, has been the victim of several early departures from tournaments over the past few years but is now experiencing a remarkable rejuvenation. Everyone in the team does well to contribute to the overall score, although the obvious big fish is Chris Gayle, the most vicious blaster of the ball to emerge in the past several years and the second highest run scorer in the tournament. Other than Gayle, Sri Lanka will also be wary of the threat Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard pose in this format of the game. As for the bowling, here is where West Indies might struggle because they are overly reliant on an out-of-form Ravi Rampaul and the spinner Sunil Narine, who is incredibly deceptive but can expect his effectiveness to be reduced because Sri Lankan batsmen are recognized experts of spin bowling. Also worrisome for West Indies will be the fact that, on the four previous occasions they have met Sri Lanka in a T20 International, the Sri Lankans have won every time.
The current form of the two teams, however, suggests that the final should be an interesting spectacle. Sri Lanka reached the final with just one loss (to the now eliminated South Africa, in a match that many felt should not even have been played because of the weather conditions) and their semifinal routing out of Pakistan, the most consistent side in the history of the tournament, was the stuff of legend. As for West Indies, they have reached this final with two losses under their belt and while they rectified their loss against Australia with a thumping win in the semifinal, the other team could not conquer in the earlier stages was, coincidentally but tellingly, Sri Lanka.
In short, the two teams will go in with commendable sides and decent form in the tournament, although the psychological factor lies firmly with Sri Lanka for their history of dominance over West Indies. As is the case with finals, however, the pressure of a home crowd is just as bad as the pressure of the opposition and Sri Lanka will have to contend with the gazes of thousands of eager fans, something that the highly showman like West Indies revels in.
I mentioned in the introduction that people who are not fans of the game can take this opportunity to get involved and I still stand by it. The T20 International is the quickest format of the game and the best chance for someone to become a fan is by watching two admirable international sides engage in a battle that will be as much of the nerves as of bat and ball. The match starts tomorrow morning, 09:30 EST, and will be available for live free steaming through ESPN Cricinfo.