COLOMBO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Having played a reluctant party-pooper in dropping birthday boy Akila Dananjaya to accommodate Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was naturally a relieved man after the move paid off in the World Twenty20 semi-final against Pakistan.
Unorthodox spinner Dananjaya turned 19 on Thursday only to be told 34-year-old left-arm spinner Herath would replace him in the playing XI for the match against Pakistan.
Much to Jayawardene's relief, Herath celebrated his return with a match-winning three-wicket haul that helped Sri Lanka win the match by 16 runs and book a place in Sunday's final.
"That was a tough call," Jayawardene told reporters.
"(It was) Akila's birthday today as well. He was utterly disappointed when I told him he is not playing. You should have seen his face.
"But we felt that the two experienced spinners would guide us through today."
"Ajantha and Herath did the job well for us. So you have to make some tough calls sometimes. I am quite happy that it did pay off for me," said Jayawardene, who was adjudged man of the match for his fluent 42.
The Sri Lankan skipper said Pakistan's poor record against left-arm spinners tilted the scale in Herath's favour.
"They (Pakistan) have about seven right-handed batsmen. So we had to take a decision to play Rangana. He is an experienced bowler. I think he fulfilled what we required today," Jayawardene said.
"He has been brilliant against Pakistan. I think if you take his career he has always tormented them and obviously Pakistan has a history against left-arm spin." (Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)