Spinners, once considered irrelevant in short-form cricket, will play a key role in the World Twenty20 semi-finals starting in Dhaka on Thursday night.
Among the top eight wicket-takers, six are spinners with South Africa’s leggie Imran Tahir leading the pack with 11 wickets in four games.
Defending champions the West Indies, who clash with Sri Lanka on Thursday in a repeat of the 2012 final, boast two prolific slow bowlers in Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine.
The duo shared six wickets as the Caribbean stars demolished Pakistan by 84 runs in the last league match on Tuesday to qualify for the semi-finals.
Sri Lanka have an ace up their sleeve in veteran left-armer Rangana Herath, who destroyed New Zealand in Chittagong on Monday.
The second semi-final on Friday between unbeaten India and South Africa could also boil down to a spinners’ showdown between Tahir and Indian pair Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Leg-spinner Mishra’s nine-wicket haul in four games has been matched by off-break bowler Ashwin’s seven wickets, helping India to become the only team to win all four matches.
“The stats speak for themselves,” said West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo. “It’s good to have two of the best in our team, but all the other sides too have good spinners.”
The West Indies start with the advantage of having played all their matches at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka, the venue for the knock-out rounds, while Sri Lanka come in from Chittagong.
Sri Lanka will be wary of two destructive finishers in Bravo and skipper Darren Sammy, who flattened Australia and Pakistan with massive big hits late in the innings.
“Its a game we were born to play,” said Bravo. “We just want to go there and entertain cricket fans and give them their money’s worth. We play hard, but play fair.”
South Africa, branded chokers for their inability to win major titles, seem to have put the past behind them by scripting three narrow wins in Chittagong after losing their opening game to Sri Lanka by five runs.
The Proteas beat New Zealand by two runs, the Netherlands by six runs and England by three runs, giving all-rounder JP Duminy added confidence going into the second semi-final against India.
“We can take a lot of confidence from those wins,” he said. “Two of those games we were not meant to win, but to win a game out of nothing is something very positive.
“India will be a huge challenge, but we are ready. Its a big game, a semi-final of a world event. It does not get bigger than this.”
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his team was peaking at the right time, but stressed that nothing could be taken for granted in the shortest format.
“We have to bat and bowl well again,” he said. “In T20, a couple of overs can change the game so it is hard to predict how it will go.”
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