Sri Lanka hope for semi-final miracle, Windies to bring out the best at last

Sri Lanka take on the West Indies at the Emirates Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street, Durham in the 39th game of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup on Monday. The subcontinental side stand seventh in the points table, whereas the men from the Caribbean are on a disappointing ninth place.

This is expected to be a good contest between two sides who have struggled to stay afloat in the tournament.

Both these outfits have been eliminated from the competition, meaning pride is the only thing left to play for. It's just a matter of who turns out to be the more expressive one on the day.

The defeat to South Africa might have put an improbable qualification beyond their control, but Sri Lanka will be aiming to give it their best shot against a vibrant West Indies outfit which has nothing to lose in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

Sri Lanka’s 20-run win over England, on 21 June, had well and truly opened up the competition for the semi-final spots at the World Cup. However, a painful loss to South Africa, in the very next game, has made their own qualifying chances extremely bleak. They need to win their final two matches, and hope for favourable outcomes in England and Pakistan’s next fixtures.

In their nine-wicket loss at this very venue on 28 June, their inconsistent batting came to the fore yet again. Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne would be aiming to improve that aspect against a challenging West Indian bowling attack.

The Jason Holder-led side, on the other hand, has reached the fag-end of a sorrowful campaign that has seen them win just one out of seven games. Though they have been impressive in parts, the side has failed to close out key moments in tight games. Things went downhill after a breezy seven-wicket win over Pakistan in their opening game, and they now sit just above Afghanistan in the points table, having lost out on the semi-final race.

Their batting unit has misfired more often than not, putting the onus on Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka to deliver with the ball in clutch situations. With nine wickets in five games, seven of which came in Sri Lanka’s two wins, the veteran pacer has done his bit. With Nuwan Pradeep’s premature exit, Sri Lanka will be relying heavily on their bowling spearhead once again.

Chris Gayle, the self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' can light up any match he is playing in, and against a bowling attack that has sporadically performed to its potential, the same could happen.

In the dying embers of his international career, Chris Gayle of West Indies will look to sign off from his fifth, and final, World Cup on a high. 

Leading the run-charts for West Indies in the tournament, the 39-year-old has shown signs of vintage form in the recent past. 

With no pressure of qualifying, a liberated Gayle could end up doing the damage at the top of the order.

West Indies will be heavily relying on all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite to provide them with industry, with both bat and ball in hand. Brathwaite almost took the West Indies home against New Zealand and therefore, form and touch are certainly on his side. He claimed two scalps in six overs, and then later returned with a heroic 101 off 82 balls.

Due to his ability to break partnerships, hit a long ball and take the game away from the opposition, Carlos Brathwaite will surely be one to watch out for.

Sheldon Cottrell, the left arm fast bowler from Jamaica, is the West Indies' leading wicket taker in this World Cup with 11 scalps. Cottrell is a fine left-armer who can attack good areas of the wicket, while at the same time prevent the opposition from getting away with easy runs.

Captain Jason Holder will surely turn to the 29-year-old whenever the team is in dire need of a wicket.