Hosts Sri Lanka have used a bagful of tricks to outwit rivals on their way to the World Twenty20 semi-finals, even changing captains for a match to further their cause.
Eyebrows were raised when Kumar Sangakkara, and not regular captain Mahela Jayawardene, walked out to toss in yesterday’s last Super Eights match against England in Pallekele.
Both Jayawardene and designated Vice-Captain Angelo Mathews were part of the playing eleven, but the team sheet had senior pro Sangakkara as skipper in an extraordinary turn of events.
Jayawardene explained later the change was made to prevent him and Mathews from missing out on the semi-finals since both of them were already serving a one-match notice for slow over-rates.
“The intention was not wrong,” Jayawardene said after the 19-run win over England that knocked the defending champions out of the tournament and lifted the hosts and the West Indies into the semi-finals from group one.
“I had a warning for an over-rate issue, and if it happened again I could have missed the next match. It’s a tough system and it’s tough to bowl 20 overs in one hour and 20 minutes in a tournament like this.
“We try our best, but the penalties are harsh. We don’t want to miss the big games, so we did it with the right intentions.
“Angelo Mathews was on the same offence, so if he got nailed he would have missed the game as well. We had to find someone who didn’t have a rap sheet and Kumar fitted the bill.”
Jayawardene revealed that Team Manager Charith Senanayake had verified the rules and consulted the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct before making the change.
“I am sure they will change the rules after this, but hopefully not in this tournament,” he said.
Dominant Sri Lanka won all three Super Eight matches to top the Group and now await the second-placed team from the other half in the first semi-final at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Thursday.
Sri Lanka’s two frontline bowlers, Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis, who have taken 17 wickets between them, propelled the hosts forward on the slow pitches.
Malinga picked up five wickets against England, including three in his first over, to derail the chase along with teenage spinner Akila Dananjaya, who finished with 2-26.