Dilshan fires Sri Lanka to final

ICC World Twenty20 2009

Tillakaratne Dilshan & Denesh Ramdin

Tillakaratne Dilshan scored almost two-thirds of Sri Lanka's 158, falling short of the second Twenty20 international ton

Tillakaratne Dilshan continued his prolific ICC World Twenty20 by powering Sri Lanka into an emotional final showdown after an emphatic victory over West Indies at the Oval.

The brilliant opener hit an unbeaten 96 off 57 balls, the third highest individual innings in Twenty20 international history, to help Sri Lanka cruise to a 57-run semi-final victory.

It took his tally for the tournament to 317 in six matches, the most in the competition, and set up a meeting with Pakistan at Lord's on Sunday - three months after Sri Lanka's team bus was attacked by terrorists in Lahore on its way to Gaddafi Stadium for the second Test.

The finale to the competition is bound to be emotional for both sides, but particularly so Sri Lanka after several of their players suffered injuries in the attack.

Playing their first major tournament since then, Sri Lanka have overcome that incident to power into the final having overcome a shaky start to post a competitive 158 for five after Chris Gayle's final over was hammered for 19 runs.

They then dismissed West Indies for 101 in just 17.4 overs with seamer Angelo Mathews claiming three wickets in the opening over while mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis delivered stunning figures of 2-9 in his four overs.

But for Dilshan's brilliant innings, which included 12 fours and two sixes, Sri Lanka would have struggled to post anything like a competitive total after a surprisingly sluggish start from fellow opener Sanath Jayasuriya.

West Indies had been forced to field all-rounder Darren Sammy after strike bowler Fidel Edwards failed a fitness test on a back strain and it was a selection which was quickly justified when he conceded just nine runs in his two-over new ball spell.

Having built a reputation as one of international cricket's most flamboyant openers, 39-year-old Jayasuriya struggled more than most with Sammy's accuracy and athleticism after West Indies won the toss and decided to bowl first.

Unable to time the ball, Jayasuriya tried two changes of bat to try and emerge from his slump but only became more frustrated as Dilshan dominated their 73-run stand off 63 balls.

The contrast between the pair was stark with Dilshan rescuing Sri Lanka after they crawled to 12 without loss after three overs to finish only one big shot short of only the second Twenty20 international century in history.

Jayasuriya scored from just 14 of the 37 deliveries he faced and it was almost a relief when he attempted to paddle sweep Dwayne Bravo and was caught at short fine leg for 24 off 37 balls.

But his dismissal was the start of a mini-collapse, which threatened Sri Lanka's ability to post even a competitive total when they lost three wickets for four runs in eight balls.

Angelo Mathews & Dwayne Bravo

Angelo Mathews celebrates a remarkable first over, where three West Indies batsman played on

Two balls after Jayasuriya's demise, captain Kumar Sangakkara flashed to backward point and four deliveries later Mahela Jayawardene clipped Kieron Pollard off his legs to short fine leg.

At 77 for three in the 12th over, Sri Lanka's gamble to rely on their top order to score their runs and pick specialist bowlers seemed a rash one when they were restricted to only one boundary in four overs since the start of the collapse.

Chamara Silva wisely chose to spend his innings giving as much strike as he could to Dilshan, which resulted in him contributing just 11 runs to their crucial 50-run stand off 35 balls.

Dilshan responded to the stalling of their run-rate by deciding the time was ripe to step on the accelerator when all-rounder Dwayne Bravo was introduced in the 17th over and hit three fours in four balls.

Silva was caught behind trying to sweep in the next over and Jehan Mubarak was brilliantly caught in the deep by Darren Sammy in the space of eight balls to leave Dilshan and new batsman Mathews with the responsibility of attempting to guide them past 150.

Mathews played his part with an unbeaten 12 off four balls and Dilshan, facing the final ball of the innings from Gayle needing a six to reach his century, fell four runs short.

It may have been a personal disappointment but he provided the momentum for Sri Lanka, who responded with Mathews bowling Xavier Marshall, Lendl Simmons and Bravo in the first over.

From that disastrous start, any side in the world would have struggled to come close to matching Sri Lanka's total but while Gayle remained at the crease there was always a slight hope he could conjur up another surprise.

Gayle delivered as best he could, finishing unbeaten on 63 off 50 balls after hitting eight fours and two sixes but none of his team-mates were able to even reach double figures.

Starved of scoring opportunities by the accuracy of mystery spin pair Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan, who finished with 3-29, West Indies lost six for 37 from 39 balls in a succession of increasingly desperate shots.

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