COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AFP) — Veteran spinner Rangana Herath grabbed 3-25 to lift hosts Sri Lanka into the World Twenty20 final with a 16-run victory over Pakistan in Colombo yesterday.
Sri Lanka, restricted to 139-4 after electing to bat, hit back to keep Pakistan down to 123-7 in a thrilling semi-final before 35,000 screaming fans at the Premadasa stadium.
Herath, the 34-year-old left-arm spinner playing only his sixth T20 international, was supported by two wickets each from seamer Angelo Mathews and unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis.
It was Sri Lanka's second appearance in the World Twenty20 final, having lost to Pakistan in the 2009 title clash at Lord's.
It was also the first time in four editions of the tournament that began in 2007 that a host country had made it past the semi-final round.
Rival captains Mahela Jayawardene and Mohammad Hafeez top-scored for their teams with 42 each, but the other batsmen struggled to force the pace on a sluggish pitch that hampered stroke-making.
Jayawardene said he decided to play Herath in place of Akila Dananjaya because Pakistan were reputed to be weak against left-arm spin.
Hafeez said the loss of quick wickets in the middle overs cost Pakistan the game.
Sri Lanka wasted a sound start to plod to 123-4 in 19 overs, before Thisara Perera smashed three boundaries in the final over of seamer Umar Gul, which realised 16 runs — ultimately the margin of victory.
Pakistan's openers Hafeez and Imran Nazir began the reply on a confident note, putting on 31 for the first wicket in six overs.