Australia face spin in semis
ONE man stands in the way of Australia earning a place in the Twenty20 World Cup final when it takes on the West Indies in tomorrow night's semi-final - and it is not master blaster Chris Gayle.
With the Sri Lankan pitches drying out by the day, spinners have begun to weave a web of magic on the batsmen - highlighted by Australia's 32-run loss to Pakistan in the final Super Eights match on Tuesday night.
After making a respectable 6-149, Pakistan restricted the Aussies to 7-117, with spinners bowling 18 of the 20 overs and taking all of the wickets.
The man who holds the key for the Windies is mystery spinner Sunil Narine. He took the second-most wickets in this year's Indian Premier League and was clearly the most difficult bowler to play.
Capable of turning the ball both ways out of the front of his hand, Narine took 3-20 in the team's super-over victory against New Zealand earlier in the week.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur said yesterday that the battle against spin was just a fact of life, and he backed Australia's batsmen, particularly the top three (Shane Watson, David Warner and George Bailey), to get the job done.
"They (Pakistan) used a lot of spin against us ... that's just the nature of the tournament. The wickets are going to be very conducive to that," Arthur said.
"We've had a lot of cricket against them (the West Indies) of late, and done some pretty good planning against them.
"It's just a matter of going out and executing on the day."
While spinners from the other three teams in the semi-finals - Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the West Indies - had been very effective, the Aussies struggled in that area against Pakistan.
Brad Hogg returned 0-29 off three overs and Xavier Doherty took 1-27 off his four.
Host Sri Lanka will play Pakistan in the first semi-final tonight, with Sri Lankan spinners Ajantha Mendis and Jeevan Mendis expected to cause plenty of problems for the Pakistani batsmen.
Like it did against Australia, Pakistan will look to right-arm off-spinner Saeed Ajmal to lead the way, while he can expect plenty of back-up from emerging left-armer Raza Hasan, captain Mohammad Hafeez, Shaoib Malik and leggie Shahid Afridi.
The final is on Sunday.