Sangakkara coy over Mendis
Sri Lanka will keep England guessing until the last minute over the presence of mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis in their team for tomorrow’s ICC World Twenty20 semi-final.
There was no place for Mendis’ curiosities in the Sri Lanka side that beat India yesterday to book a return visit to St Lucia’s Beausejour Stadium, in pursuit of a second successive place in the final of this tournament.
England have limited experience of Mendis’ brand of finger and wrist spin but did play him satisfactorily at the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa last year.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara, however, is well aware that batsmen the world over have needed time to come to terms with Mendis - and he was not about to save England the bother of wading through the videotape to try to spot how best to combat him.
Asked whether Mendis will be back in the team against Paul Collingwood and co, Sangakkara was knowingly equivocal.
“We’ll have to have a think about that, how it works with our combination and our batting,” he said.
“We would love him to play. He’s a top-quality spinner, and England have probably played him once.
“It’s a realistic possibility, but we’ve got other spinners who are pretty good at what they do.
“We’ve got a lot of variation in our bowling attack and will try to exploit that in these conditions, which I think are a bit more suited to us.”
Sangakkara, whose team have sneaked through to the last four despite a heavy Super Eight defeat against Australia, also disputed Collingwood’s premise that winning momentum counts for much in world tournaments.
“Any team in Twenty20 is tough,” he said, assessing the threat of England.
“You always start with a clean slate. Momentum and past wins just don’t matter on the day. Twenty20 changes really quickly.
“We put ourselves in a hole after the Australia game. But we’ve managed to do well in big tournaments, and I hope against England we can convert that into another win and another final.
“Hoping and wishing and wanting is one thing. But actually doing it is another.”
Sangakkara has plenty of respect for an England side who have impressed many over the past two weeks with their power-hitting and clever bowling.
“I think they’re a very good side. They’ve got a lot more balance than they’ve ever had before, a lot more depth,” he said.
“We know what they can do but we will be trying to concentrate on how we can get England reacting to us.”
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, still have the chance to go one better than last summer when they lost to Pakistan in the Lord’s final.
But asked what an ICC trophy would mean to his country, Sangakkara was not about to get ahead of himself.
“We’ve got to try to win the semi-final first,” he said. “If we can win tomorrow it will be good; if we can win the next one it will be great.
“But tomorrow is a big hurdle. We’ve done well up to now in patches. We’ve got to do better tomorrow.”