On-song Sri Lanka take on Pakistan in Super Eights

Sri Lanka emerged as one of the favoured teams in the WT20 after their clinical destruction of mighty Australia and the West Indies in the first round.

updated: June 12, 2009 07:42 IST
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Sri Lanka emerged as one of the favoured teams in the World Twenty20 after their clinical destruction of mighty Australia and the West Indies in the first round.

Kumar Sangakkara's merry band knocked Australia out of the competition with a six-wicket win, before displaying their batting prowess during a 15-run victory over the West Indies on Wednesday.

"I am happy we have hit the right groove and gained the momentum we needed going into the Super Eights," Sangakkara, leading Sri Lanka for the first time in a major series, told AFP.

"But a lot of areas remain to be worked on. The next round will be tough and we must cover all grounds. We are getting there."

Sri Lanka, who failed to make the semi-finals in the inaugural T20 Worlds in South Africa in 2007, are drawn with Pakistan, Ireland and New Zealand in Group F of the Super Eights.

The other group has defending champions India, South Africa, the West Indies and hosts England, with two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.

"To win a world-class tournament like this, one needs to do well against all teams," said Sangakkara. "There are no easy groups, no easy games. We can't afford to let our guard down at any stage."

Sri Lanka have shown their all-round skills in the two games, with spinner Ajantha Mendis picking up 3-20 against Australia before veteran Sanath Jayasuriya blasted 81 off 47 balls against the West Indies.

Left-handed Jayasuriya, at 39 the oldest player in the 12-nation tournament, smashed 10 boundaries and three sixes during a first-wicket stand of 124 with Tillekeratne Dilshan.

Sri Lanka piled up a massive 192-5 after being sent-in to bat by stand-in West Indian captain Denesh Ramdin, whose team managed 177-5 in a high-scoring thriller.

"Sanath is a genius and he was ably supported by Dilshan," Sangakkara said at the post-match presentation ceremony. "They proved that with a good start you can put up a very defendable total.

"The main thing was to get momentum and I'm happy with the way the guys played."

Jayasuriya, who scored just two against Australia, hit back in style at critics who questioned his place in the team.

"I am enjoying my cricket, but I get great support from my teammates," he said.

"Dilshan and I like to play our natural game and it was great for our confidence.

"In the first few overs if you see the ball well, then you are there. I was positive and played my natural game."

Mendis shone again, just as he had done against Australia, with two key wickets of Xavier Marshall and veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the space of five balls.

The seasoned Muttiah Muralitharan showed there was place for spinners in the shortest format of the game with one for 21 in his four overs.

But paceman Lasith Malinga went for 45 runs for his two wickets, while newcomer Isuru Udana conceded 36 runs in his four overs.

Sri Lanka play their first Super Eights match against Pakistan at Lord's on Friday.