Sri Lanka v West IndiesSky Sports
It shouldn't really be a surprise that the hosts are in this final, yet somehow it is. They've never looked entirely sure what their best batting lineup is, their bowling has been erratic and Tillakaratne Dilshan, one of the most feared batsmen in limited overs cricket, has barely fired at all.
Although they have played various games with the ICC over who is leading this side (in order to avoid suspensions being meted out for failing to meet the governing body's ludicrous time limit to complete overs in), Mahela Jayawardene has captained the side in both word and deed, being their most reliable batsman and a fired-up helmsman on the field. Vice-captain Angelo Mathews, despite only being able to bowl the occasional over, has also been solid with the bat and, of course, the return to form of spinner Ajantha Mendis has come at just the right time.
Despite the Sri Lankans having shuffled their lineup for every game so far, don't expect changes for this game. Left arm spinner Rangana Herath was a vital part of their win over Pakistan in the semi-final and although veteran seamer Lasith Malinga had a bad attack of the jitters in that game, leaving him out would be unthinkable. In terms of batting, they seem wedded to an order which has served them well, with Jayawardene and Dilshan opening and the dangerous Thisara Perera - nominally a bowler - floating around the middle order.
If it is a surprise to see Sri Lanka in the final, finding the West Indies here is almost cardiac territory. Darren Sammy's side have somehow clawed their way to the final despite having no discernible bowling attack and carrying a complete passenger in Andre Russell, who bowls one expensive over per game (on average) and who barely seems able to hold the bat at the right end these days.
Of course, all of this is somewhat balanced by having Chris Gayle in the side. Adroitly combining being T20's biggest weapon and the Caribbean's biggest sulk has not been easy, but the other ten members of the team must be thankful that he patched up his differences with the WICB in time for this competition. He has already found one partner in mayhem in opening partner Johnson Charles and had another in the huge semi-final win over Australia in Dwayne Bravo. Given that neither Darren Bravo nor Dwayne Smith can get near this batting lineup at present, and that Marlon Samuels has rarely got out of second gear in this tournament, the threat level for Sri Lanka is high.
Of the bowling attack, the less said the better. It is basically spinner Sunil Narine and a bunch of other guys. But Sammy is an expert at handling his attack and one thing they have done well is to switch between slow bowler Samuel Badree and seamer Fidel Edwards according to the ability of their opponents to play slow bowling. Even though the Colombo pitch will turn and turn, expect Edwards to get the call for this game.
These two have, of course, already met once in this competition. Sri Lanka won that one by nine wickets, with Mendis only conceding 12 runs in his four overs. With that behind them and on home soil they are understandably favourites at [1.83] with the West Indians [2.2]
Here's a little known fact for you. Even before this tournament began, Jayawardene had a better runs per hundred balls rate than Dilshan in this form of the game. The gap has widened as the latter has scratched for runs and is now over 11 runs. Whilst the temptation is to see the Sri Lankan captain as a classical batsman who is only playing this form of the game because he's the captain, the truth is that he revels in this format, where he can give full vent to his strokemaking repertoire. Back him at around [4.0]
There's little value in backing Gayle in this market, even though the opener needs only 30 runs to overtake Shane Watson as the leading runscorer in this tournament. Instead go for Samuels, who showed in England during the summer that he is getting to love the big stage. He bats at three so should have plenty of time to make runs and at odds of [5.3] he's a very decent price too.