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Sri Lanka bowlers should have the edge

In a format designed for the booming blows, two sides with incisive and varied attacks will face off in the summit clash.

Bowlers win matches. Tactically, the duel should be stimulating.

Sub-continental giants Pakistan and Sri Lanka meet in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 at Lordís on Sunday. The match bristles with possibilities.

Both the sides play with flair, heart and passion. And both will not be short of support in a timeless arena that should be a blaze of colour.

The contest also marks a triumph for cricket and peace. The restraint shown by the Lankan cricketers after the terror strike in Lahore was exemplary.

Some of them emerged with scars on their body and mind but displayed courage to return to top-flight cricket.

Younis Khan, the Pakistan captain, commiserated with the Lankan cricketers when he said, ďI could understand what went through their minds in Lahore. We were all shattered.Ē

His teamís progress in the competition ó the sideís international schedule has been severely disrupted by the threat of terror ó has been underlined by rare resolve. Cricket can be a great binding force.

Pakistan will seek to exorcise the ghosts of the 2007 final when Misbah-ul-Haq blundered on the brink.

Both sides are not short on match-winners or firepower. Tillakaratne Dilshan will be a massive factor at the top of the order. Here is someone with a complete range of strokes... even over the íkeeperís head!

His sparkling footwork is enhanced by exceptional bat-speed, Dilshan backs his instincts, is inventive.

How would Younis counter the Lankanís flashing blade in the early overs?

The Pakistan captain might be tempted to give the influential Umar Gul an over or two early on against Dilshan but then he would require the pacemanís searing toe-crushers in the end overs. Will he bring on Saeed Ajmal to bowl his doosras early on, hoping for a miscued hit from the right-hander? Or will he trust old hand Abdul Razzaq to swing one in past the defence.

Kamran Akmal could be given specific instructions to target paceman Angelo Matthews, bound to be high on confidence after his exploits against the West Indies. The mind games will be on.

And will Pakistan continue to send the explosive Shahid Afridi at No. 3 or hold him back for an onslaught on the Lankan spinners?

Ajantha Mendis, spinning the ball away, straightening it, or getting it to skid through from middle and off is hard to score off once he settles into a rhythm; there is hardly any width or length for the batsmen. Mendis has to be taken on at the beginning of his spell.

Off-spinning wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis choke the flow of runs in the middle overs. Muralitharanís flight and variations from round-the-wicket sows the seeds of doubt in the batsmanís mind; he is unsure whether the ball will straighten or spin across.

Muralitharan is also among those off-spinners spinners who bowl better at the right-handers. Pakistan could miss a quality left-hander in the line-up.

Slinger Lasith Malingaís swinging yorkers are unlikely to make life easier for the Pakistani batsmen; Malinga and Muralitharan were major players in Lankaís victory over Pakistan in a tense league game earlier in the competition.

In the same match, Afridiís leg-spin proved a major road-block for the Lankan batsmen after Dilshan and Jayasuriya sparkled early. The energetic all-rounder contains as well as consumes the batsmen with skill and control.

If there is a chink in the Lankan line-up, it is, perhaps, a lack of depth in batting after the first four Ė Dilshan, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene. And there have been occasions when the team has faltered in the middle overs and then made up towards the end.

That might not be possible against a Pakistan attack with Gul. The Lankans cannot quite afford to leave it till the final overs.

Forecasts predict a day of both sunshine and clouds. Pressures of the chase in a big final suggest that batting would be a better option. But then, there could be some assistance for the pacemen early on.

The action should be gripping.

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