Gayle threat for Lanka; Afghan test beckons SA
March 19 2016 09:51 PM
Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan (left) starred with an unbeaten 83 in their six-wicket win over Afghanistan in their opening game of the World Twenty20 on Thursday, but face a much tougher task against an unpredictable West Indies side, which has the destructive Chris Gayle at the top of their order, today. (AFP)


Troubled champions Sri Lanka will need to tame a rampant Chris Gayle as they face the West Indies in the first major test of their defence of cricket’s Twenty20 trophy today.
The Jamaican, who lit up the first World T20 in 2007, showed his powers remain undimmed when he smashed a 47-ball century to lead the West Indies to victory over England on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, winners of the last World T20 in Bangladesh two years ago, have been badly weakened since the retirements of star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
Slumping to eighth in the T20 rankings, Sri Lanka are also in turmoil after changing their coach and captain in recent weeks and following a disastrous showing at the Asia Cup.
Sri Lanka were given a morale booster with victory over lowly Afghanistan in their first Super 10 outing on Thursday, when veteran opener Tillakaratne Dilshan smashed 83 off 56 balls.  
But they face a much tougher test in Gayle who unleashed a succession of sixes during the West Indies’ stunning six-wicket win over England. Captain Angelo Mathews, who replaced injured veteran bowler Lasith Malinga as skipper on tournament eve, was upbeat, saying his side was capable of “doing anything” if they worked together.
“No matter who you play, you have to be positive. We aren’t looking too far ahead, if we click we can do anything,” he said.
West Indies coach Phil Simmons has sounded a warning to opponents, saying he expected Gayle to bat in 15 of the 20 overs of every match at this World T20, to set the side up for victory. “Once you bat 15 overs we are someway near to the target (either) we are setting or chasing,” Simmons said.
He said the 36-year-old, who hit the format’s first international century in 2007, should be placed alongside great Viv Richards on the list of destructive batsmen from the Caribbean.
The West Indies are one of the weakest teams in Test cricket but they remain a force in the shortest format, winning the T20 in 2012 and ranked second in the world.
Meanwhile, leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay, who was dropped from Sri Lanka’s World Twenty20 squad barely 24 hours before they left for India, was called up as Malinga’s replacement yesterday.
Pace spearhead Malinga, who is nursing a knee injury, returned home without bowling a ball for the Sri Lankan team defending their title in India. With spinners playing decisive roles in the early matches of the tournament so far, Sri Lanka have decided to bolster a slow bowling department which already includes left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake.
Vandersay, 26, has played three one-dayers and four Twenty20 Internationals.
In the second match of the day, a jolted South African side, fresh from losing a high-scoring thriller to England in their opening game, face a spirited Afghanistan.
“We can’t take Afghanistan for granted. They played well against Sri Lanka. They will aim to play well against us. They are a good and exciting team. We have to keep up with our good performance to beat them,” said South African opener Hashim Amla yesterday.
The Faf du Plessis-led South African side have been consistent when it comes to batting, but they must get their homework done in their bowling department ahead of the crucial game.
“Our batting line-up has been the best. But I think 229 was a good score for us to defend. As we all know that Wankhede is a high-scoring venue, England played very well to chase down the target,” Amla added.
“We lacked in basics against England. We gave away too many extras (26, including 20 wides). Hopefully we can rectify the mistakes and put up a good performance (against Afghanistan),” the right-hander said.

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