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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Pakistan celebrate their semi-final win
Sri Lanka will start as favourites, but you write off a united and focused Pakistan at your peril

This is hardly the final that the majority of Twenty20 fans would have predicted at the start of this competition - or even well into the first week when Pakistan were so comfortably beaten by England.

Pakistan have steadily gathered momentum since then, while Sri Lanka have quickly developed into the team of the tournament.

They certainly have the player who has made the most of the headlines - the leading batsman in the world when it comes to working on improvisations and tricks specifically for this form of the game, Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Once a very unexciting middle-order blocker, he has become supremely successful at Twenty20 and has developed an entirely new stroke that requires not only a great deal of skill to play, but more than a little bravery, too.

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He stood head and shoulders above his team-mates against West Indies, missing the first century of the tournament by just four runs, and feeding off the confidence he has picked up here and in the Indian Premier League beforehand.

Sri Lanka's worry must be that he is due to fail some time, in which case will the others rally round?

Because of their great depth in bowling resources - and the variety at Kumar Sangakkara's disposal - it is tempting to believe that Sri Lanka are capable of defending any total.

Although Lasith Malinga suffered a rare off day against West Indies, he and his fellow M's - Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis - complete a formidable trio.

They are rare, too - all three are entirely unorthodox and their passage to Test cricket without interference by the coaches is a triumph for the Sri Lankan cricket board.

Sri Lanka's players after their win over West Indies
Sri Lanka's unorthodox bowling attack will pose problems for Pakistan

Pakistan are now an entirely different outfit to the one that looked horribly out of sorts in the first week. Listening to their charismatic captain, Younus Khan, it is clear that the appalling events in Pakistan has focused his team on succeeding here.

They are playing for the hard-pressed and suffering cricket fans in Pakistan, and this has united the players. You can still never be entirely sure what you are going to get with Pakistan, but to have everyone pulling in the same direction is a good start.

It is also worth pointing out that, unlike the fancied South Africa, Pakistan had the flexibility and nous to change their batting order in their semi final - it won them the game.

Led by Umar Gul, Pakistan's bowling attack is also outstanding and in Shahid Afridi, they have the most destructive batsman on either side.

Sri Lanka will start as favourites, but you write off a united and focused Pakistan at your peril.



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see also
Sangakkara hails brave Sri Lanka
19 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Sri Lanka thrash Windies in semis
19 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Sri Lanka v West Indies photos
19 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Younus hopes win will lift nation
18 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Afridi steers Pakistan into final
18 Jun 09 |  Cricket
South Africa v Pakistan photos
18 Jun 09 |  Cricket
ICC World Twenty20 2009
21 Jun 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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