Pakistan's Raza Hasan and Saeed Ajmal during a practice session. -Photo by AFP

COLOMBO: Former champions Pakistan and hosts Sri Lanka clash in the first semi-final of the World Twenty20 in Colombo on Thursday, banking on the quality spinners in the two camps.

The pre-match focus revolved around Sri Lanka's unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis and Pakistan's prolific Saeed Ajmal, both of whom have been the highest wicket-takers for their respective teams in the competition.

While Mendis has taken nine wickets, Ajmal has eight.

Mendis achieved the best figures in Twenty20 internationals with six wickets for eight against Zimbabwe in the preliminary league and remains the trump-card for the hosts despite conceding 40 runs in four overs against England in Super Eights.

Pakistan had 18 overs of spin during their 32-run win over Australia on Tuesday as Ajmal was ably supported by Shahid Afridi, 20-year-old left-armer Raza Hasan and skipper Mohammad Hafeez.

Sri Lanka has the added bonus of sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who grabbed a career best 5-31 against England and remains one of the most destructive wicket-takers in the game.

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said he was confident about his team reacting well to Pakistan's challenge.

“We have played each other quite frequently and it's been a good contest,” Jayawardene told reporters on Wednesday.

“They've got some quality spinners but we just need to make sure that we execute our things well against them.

“Both Ajmal and Mendis have shown how good they are in this competition. It's going to be a big game for everybody, not just for those two guys. It's a huge game for both sides.”

The semi-final is a repeat of the 2009 final in England when Pakistan beat Sri Lanka at Lord's to win the title.

The hosts will also depend on a seasoned batting line-up led by Jayawardene to win their first major tournament since the 50-over World Cup in 1996.

But the seasoned skipper was not looking too far ahead.

“We need to get to the final first before thinking of the title,” he said.

“We may not have won too many finals but getting there itself shows that we have played consistent cricket.”

Pakistan captain Hafeez played down the hype around spinners.

“We are blessed with world-class spinners but I think we have to play good all-round cricket to win the semi-final and we will look for that once we enter the field,” said Hafeez, who regarded Sri Lanka as tough opponent.

“Sri Lanka is playing good cricket and I am happy the way we have played so far and hope that we keep the intentions positive,” said Hafeez, who said crowd support for Sri Lanka will not matter to Pakistan.

“We have been playing our cricket away from home, so we are quite used to it and I think the Sri Lankan crowd is sensible enough to support good cricket from both the teams,” said Hafeez.

“It will surely be a good contest.”

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Comments (12)

October 3, 2012 6:48 pm
Good Luck Pakistan.....
October 3, 2012 6:37 pm
Sri Lanka crowed is great so far. Thank you Sri Lanka. No matter who wins, it is great playing in Sri Lanka
October 3, 2012 7:16 pm
drop afridi, gul bring tanvir, arafat back
October 3, 2012 8:50 pm
Afridi presence in the team is more than enough than Tanvir and Arafat. At least Afridi is not giving that many runs compared to other two.s
Zahaib nabeel
October 3, 2012 9:01 pm
Sri Lanka, we love you and your cricketers. Pakistan wins or Sri Lanka wins, it does't matter. But what matters is, that whoever wins tomorrow should also win the final so the cup will come to either one of us. Good luck Pakistan, good luck Sri Lanka, and some very good top class cricket will be seen tomorrow between the two top class world teams.
October 3, 2012 8:45 pm
I think Shoib is playing well in this tournament...
manzoor NC USA
October 3, 2012 10:15 pm
We must support our team ,, we can't criticize players,,, let Hafeez decides,, We will pray for our team Pakistan,, and thank you Sri Lanks to provide amazingly comfortable atmosphere . Lets enjoy the game,, Good Luck Boys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
October 3, 2012 5:10 pm
It all boiled down to weak indian bowling - Both india and pak put up a total of 150 batting first. Pak was able to get oz out less than 120 whereas Indian bowlers were not. As simple as that, India has balling problems, its good enough for a win, but not so good enough to restrict a team.
October 3, 2012 4:42 pm
best of luck to the pakis for the semi final. now the real battle is on now because this is now the knock out stage. one silly mistake and the road is end. pakistan should play agresive but calculated cricket in the semi. they must go in the match with 2 plans. plan a for batting first and plan b for batting second. pakis should play positive and fearless cricket. hafeez can use razzaq earlier as per requirment because against ausiess he was in prime form. once again best of luck to the team and insha allah all will be well.
Tahir Ali
October 3, 2012 4:37 pm
Good luck Team Pakistan
October 3, 2012 3:56 pm
I thouht the Pakistan will play veryvell and the India is out of the tonament that's why I think the Pakistan losses from India in every worldcup so the Pakistan chances to win from Sir-lanka!
Capt C M Khan
October 3, 2012 3:11 pm
Paksitan can win if they keep the same combination and bring in Asad in place of Shoaib Malik.
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