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September 21, 2017

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Sri Lanka T20 semis bid gets lift with win over West Indies

PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka became a firm favorite to qualify for the World Twenty20 semifinals after crushing West Indies by nine wickets in the Super Eights on Saturday.

Sri Lanka can advance with a win or narrow loss — because of an excellent net run rate — to defending champion England on Monday.

West Indies needs to beat New Zealand on the same day and then wait for the outcome of the Sri Lanka-England match to qualify.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene smashed an unbeaten 65 off 49 balls in Sri Lanka's successful chase, reaching 130-1 with 28 balls to spare after West Indies put up only 129-4. The West Indians were buckled down by Jayawardene's effective and regular change of bowlers.

"Overall a very good effort," Jayawardene said of his team's convincing win. "When they were going after our bowlers I just kept changing the bowlers. And once we got through the first 12 overs I told Kumar (Sangakkara) we should finish this as quickly as possible."

Jayawardene and Sangakkara (39) shared a 108-run unbroken stand off 75 balls after Ravi Rampaul had Tillakaratne Dilshan (13) caught behind in the third over.

Both batsmen batted comfortably at Pallekele International Stadium and gave respect to only offspinner Sunil Narine, who gave away 23 runs but remained wicketless.

Jaywardene hit 10 fours and a six in his unbeaten knock while Sangakkara faced 34 balls and hit five boundaries.

Earlier, Sri Lanka finger spinner Ajantha Mendis bowled a miserly spell of 2-12 to help restrict West Indies.

Marlon Samuels top-scored with 50 off 35 balls with four boundaries and two sixes and shared the best stand of 65 for the third wicket with Dwayne Bravo, who made 40.

Mendis had opening batsman Charles Johnson (12) stumped in the fifth over and returned to clean bowl Kieron Pollard (1).

"Their bowlers bowled really well to us and now the New Zealand game is a must-win for us," West Indies captain Darren Sammy said. "We bowled too short and wide (while) the Sri Lankan bowlers bowled fuller and we didn't do that enough."

Seamer Nuwan Kulasekara added to West Indies' early problems when, two balls after Johnson departed, hard-hitting Chris Gayle was out for 2 playing a loose shot off a slow delivery. Gayle had struggled for nine balls against the change of pace by the seamers.

Jaywardene — who lost the toss — never allowed the opening pair of Charles and Gayle to free their arms as they did against England in the 15-run win on Thursday.

Jayawardene intelligently used four bowlers within the first six overs of the batting powerplay and was duly rewarded with the wickets of both openers.

Samuels and Bravo revived the innings, but never looked to threaten to score boundaries at will as Jayawardene rotated his bowlers effectively.

Dilshan took well-judged catches of both batsmen in the deep as West Indies tried to break the stranglehold.

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