Friday Night Celebrations are in order! - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Friday Night Celebrations are in order!

heh, heh..........nothing beats the pleasure of such a game! heh, heh.........

Gayle stands brave and unbowed as Dilshan and Sri Lanka head to the final

Rarely can so short a match have been so shaped entirely by the efforts of just two men — Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan

Chris Gayle watched his team crumble around him as Sri Lanka marched to victory.

Was this a semi-final or a single-wicket contest between Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan? Rarely can so short a match have been so shaped entirely by the efforts of just two men. Each of them produced an extraordinary innings, Dilshan was impeccable in victory, Gayle indefatigable in defeat. The two of them were vying to take to contribute the highest percentage of team's runs scored in a Twenty20 international, and indeed the record passed between them as their respective innings ebbed and flowed. For those who find such things worthy of note, the mark was eventually set by Dilshan at a little over 60%.

Such performances shouldn't be measured in mere statistics though. Gayle's innings was a final flick of the fingers to the hoards of sanctimonious critics who queued up to damn his words and deeds in the Test series against England without pausing to consider where he was coming from. Poor as the West Indian approach was back then, it was a direct response to the actions of the WICB. Disappointingly few people put his remarks into the context of an ongoing dispute between the board and players that had seen his team dragged to England and away from the riches of the IPL against their will to fulfil a pair of meaningless fixtures with the sole aim of topping up the board's coffers.

Those who doubted Gayle back then have been conspicuously silent since. "Gayle needs to be given a lifetime ban for the crime of cool" thundered one broadsheet back at the start of June. Gayle's 63 tonight was another act of defiance from a captain who clearly cares a lot. From the moment Angelo Mathews tore apart the West Indian upper order, Gayle standing looking helplessly on from the non-striker's end, leaning dejectedly on his bat, the result felt inevitable. Gayle though did not give up, but batted on regardless. Without him, his side would have been humiliated.

Without Fidel Edwards, the West Indies always looked a bowler short of a set. Darren Sammy, honest though his medium pace may be, is nothing like an adequate replacement for a bowler who has propped up the attack single-handed through much of the year. With Edwards out, the West Indian bowling had a distinct lack of genuine menace.

Even Edwards may not have made much difference today though, given the mood Dilshan was in. Sanath Jayasuriya spent most of his time at the crease staring wistfully down the track like an old farmhand sitting on his porch watching his sons till the field he used to work himself. His retirement cannot be far away. It may even be as imminent as this Sunday. Dilshan had been dropped from the Sri Lankan one-day side this January, and then brought back as an opener. It has been the making of him, in 20- as well as 50-over cricket. Over 20 innings in the IPL and the WT20, Dilshan has averaged 40.

He unveiled his famous flick over the keeper in the fourth over, off Jerome Taylor of all people. This time the ball arced away incredibly for six. He had uppercut the ball before, a bouncer, away for four with unnatural ease as well. Dilshan, something of a slope-shouldered, messy haired shambles at the crease, has astonishing timing and bat speed. His drives through the off side were lightning fast, though his scoring was far from restricted to that area.

Sri Lanka veered into real trouble when they tripped from 73-0 to 78-3, and were an impoverished 98-3 going into the final five overs. Dilshan added 60 from 30 balls with the tail though. Stylishly, he whipped off his helmet at the end of his innings, batting bare-headed for the disastrous final over. It could only have been better if he had reached that hundred from the final ball with a six, as the crowd, West Indians, Sri Lankans and neutrals alike, were exhorting him to do.

The final then is Pakistan v Sri Lanka, just 3½ months after the Lahore terror attack cut short a series between the two nations. It will make an enthralling denouement to an excellent tournament. The two teams are actually uncannily similar in composition, blending orthodoxy and overt aggression in their batting, and relying on spin partnerships and superb death bowling with the ball. Sri Lanka should be a slight favourites, whatever that means in this form of the game.

heh, heh........drooling for the final on Sunday! heh, heh.......
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