Australia Sri Lanka

Nuwan Kulasekara (second from right) picked up three wickets to help Sri Lanka to a 20-run win © Getty Images

By Jaideep Vaidya
 
London: Jun 18, 2013
 
Sri Lanka entered the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 after a 20–run victory over defending champions Australia in the last Group A match. Angelo Mathews’s men join England in the last four from the group, and will face India at Cardiff on June 20 for a place in the final. The other semi-final at The Oval on June 19 will be between England and South Africa.
 
Veteran batsman Mahela Jayawardene scored an unbeaten 81-ball 84 to guide the Lankans to 253 for eight in 50 overs, which the Australians would have had to chase in 29.1 overs in order to qualify. Going hammer and tongs was the only wait out for George Bailey’s inexperienced team, who lost wickets at regular intervals in their bid to keep up with the required rate of nearly nine an over.

Adam Voges scored 49 off 62 balls in the middle-order, before Clint McKay (30) and Xavier Doherty (15 not out) shared a gritty 41-run last-wicket partnership to provide a tense finish for the Lankans, but it wasn’t to be enough as the Aussies were eventually bowled out for 233.
 
Earlier, in a welcome change, the rains decided to stay away from The Oval on Monday as Bailey won the toss and elected to field first. The Sri Lankans were rocked early as Mitchell Johnson and Clint McKay accounted for the wickets of Kushal Perera (4) and Kumar Sangakkara (3), respectively, within the first four overs.
 
Tillakaratne Dilshan and the promoted Lahiru Thirimanne then took up the task of steadying the wobble. The duo calmly went about the rebuilding, scoring just above four runs an over. It took a great diving catch at first slip by Shane Watson to send Dilshan packing break the 72-run stand in the 23rd over as Xavier Doherty picked up his first wicket.
 
This brought the elder statesman, Jayawardene, to the crease. The 36-year-old lost Thirimanne (57) and his skipper Angelo Mathews (12) within the space of five overs as Australia threatened to claw back into the match with about 20 overs to go.

ICC Champions Trophy 2013: Sri Lanka send Australia and New Zealand packing, to face India in semis

Mahela Jayawardene became only the eighth batsman to cross 11,000 runs in One-Day Internationals © Getty Images

However, Jayawardene found a responsible partner in Dinesh Chandimal who put his hand up and aided his senior teammate. The pair slowly upped the run-rate to five, even as Jayawardene crossed the 11,000-run mark in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), becoming only the eighth batsman in the world to do so.

Chandimal, in a bid to slog in the death overs, holed out to mid-on after a mishit off Johnson’s off-cutter, breaking a handsome 65-run stand and giving the left-handed pacer his third wicket.

The Lankans lost two more wickets in the last three overs, even as Jayawardene remained unbeaten on 84 — a responsible knock that included 11 boundaries. Jayawardene was prolific on the off-side, his wagon-wheel showing a flurry of lines in the cover and point region. In the end, the decision to demote him a spot worked in the Lankans’ favour, as his stable and mature head shepherded their innings to a defendable total.

The Australians were out of the game right from the first over of the chase when they lost Shane Watson, who did seem like their one and only chance to play a Kohli-esque innings. But Sri Lanka bowled much better than they did in Hobart in February, 2012, to avoid a déjà vu. Nuwan Kulasekara, who had conceded 71 runs for no wicket in eight overs back then, took three for 42 this time around to be the pick of the bowlers.

For Australia, 33-year-old Voges and No 10 McKay provided the only resistance in what was a listless batting performance from a team that is clearly missing the experience of the injured Michael Clarke and the retired Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.

The Australians, at least not the whole lot of them, won’t be flying back home so soon since they have an Ashes series to play. However, going by their performance in this tournament, it does look like it’s going to be a long, grueling English summer waiting for them.

Brief scores:
 
Sri Lanka 253 for 8 in 50 overs (Mahela Jayawardene 84*, Lahiru Thirimanne 57; Mitchell Johnson 3 for 48) beat Australia 233 in 42.3 overs (Adam Voges 49; Nuwan Kulasekara 3 for 42) by 20 runs.

Man of the Match: Mahela Jayawardene
 
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