Sri Lanka and West Indies have emerged from Super Eights play with a shot at the ICC T20 World Cup, 2012 edition, and the host nation can't afford to suffer anymore setbacks in big matches.
After losing in Barbados in 2007, England in 2009 and Mumbai in 2011, home-field advantage looks to play a major role in Sri Lanka capturing their first cricket World Cup victory since 1996. It was their only win in the event.
But standing in the way of Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene and his squad is West Indies, led by captain Darren Sammy and long smasher Chris Gayle. Gayle led the way for West Indies in the semifinal match against Australia, marking an impressive 75-of-41 balls and helping his team to one of the highest totals of the tournament at 205-4.
But this match is anything but easy for the West Indies, especially after looking at the results of the last two duels between the last two teams standing.
Sri Lanka defeated their finale counterpart by nine wickets in a practice match prior to the tournament and then knocked them off by the same margin in Super Eights play.
However, it's Gayle and the West Indies who seem to have the confidence heading into the championship bout. Gayle commented after the 74-run win against Australia that host nation or not, his Windies squad was going to have no problem taking out Jayawardene and the Sri Lankans, despite the previous results:
World Cup is definitely ours, sorry Sri Lanka, but I think it is our World Cup. The support will be more for West Indies on Sunday. We love Sri Lanka, but sorry, it is going to be West Indies all the way.
The host nation has some confidence of its own, though. Sri Lanka has felt the pain of defeat three times over the past five years. But they've been the best team through this tournament, and they've done so with impressive bowlers and timely hitting.
Captain Jayawardene has been a part of the three-time losing squad. He's stepped his play up this year, knocking 210 runs and finding himself near the top of the statistical leaderboard heading into the finale.
For both teams, it seems that the key is going to be the bats of the Caribbeans. Stopping them, specifically Gayle, is key for a host victory, while continuing the impressive onslaught is the key for West Indies.
Always gracious in victory and defeat, the Sri Lankans are the definition of class. But it's time for them to step up to the plate, in both a literal and figurative sense, and turn this impressive tournament run into a World Cup.
In a game that should provide two cultures with a fierce desire for victory, this could be a big game for the winner. The atmosphere will be loud and Sri Lanka-proud on Sunday for this tilt, and Sri Lanka will emerge the victors in front of their home fans with the same effort they've had all tournament long.
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