Sri Lanka move into World Cup final after hiccup

Kumar Sangakkara was named Man-of-the-Match

By Suneer Chowdhary

Colombo: Mar 29, 2011

When Upul Tharanga danced down the pitch and lofted Nathan McCullum for a six off the third ball of the Sri Lankan innings, the intentions had been laid clear. It was Sri Lanka s way of telling New Zealand that they were not going to approach the mediocre Kiwi target with the trepidation of South Africa.

And through three-fourth of the chase, there was hardly a period when the aggression failed to seep out of the Lankan batsmen. Then, the pressure of the semi-final probably combined with a complacent shot or two, brought New Zealand back into the game in the last quarter. However, the target of 218 proved 30 short of being a match-winning one.

The result was that Sri Lanka marched into the final of the 2011 ICC World Cup by overcoming surprise semi-finalists New Zealand by five wickets at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

There was a chirp from Brendon McCullum behind the wickets to get the Lankans to 100 for 4. They did not and unfortunately for him and his team, Sri Lanka had done enough before they actually lost four wickets to be able to clinch the game.

Between the Lankan openers, Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan, it was the left-handed Tharanga who looked more aggressive of the two. There was a six and four other hits to the fence from the Tharanga willow before Dilshan had even hit one and had it not been for Jesse Ryder s excellent catch at point, he would have probably sped away further.

The first ball that Dilshan faced after the dismissal of Tharanga was sent away to the fence and the gauntlet had been passed.

Continuing from the form that he had exhibited in the quarter-final, Dilshan spared nothing loose. With Kumar Sangakkara giving him company, it almost looked like the presence of the captain at the other end seemed to have uncluttered his mind.

Sangakkara was in an equally punishing mood and the pair added 120 for the second wicket in less than 26 overs. Dilshan got to 73 and would have become the first batsman to get to his third century this World Cup when he slashed a Tim Southee delivery to the point fielder. Not that it should have made too much difference with only 58 to win it.

It almost did.

Mahela Jayawardene followed Dilshan a run later while Sangakkara followed up his half century by upper cutting the ball to the third-man fielder. All of a sudden, from 160 for one, the side had lost three wickets for nine runs.

In the next five overs, Sri Lanka did not lose any more wickets but crawled to only seven more runs. It was only the surprise introduction of Jesse Ryder that allowed the Sri Lankans to cut loose with a couple of boundaries in the over.

Chamara Silva inside-edged Southee s delivery in the next over to the stump to raise a few more Kiwi hopes but in the end, Sri Lanka got there with plenty to spare.

New Zealand could have got to a much better total than they finally did. They had the start to get there, but each time it seemed like the partnership brewing would go on to convert it into something bigger, the Lankans would strike back with a wicket or two.

Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill added 32 for the first wicket before the former tried to repeat the six he had earlier hit off Rangana Herath and was bowled.

Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill did not allow the Lankans to get another wicket till the score was 69 in the 19th over but again, two wickets fell cheaply to peg the side back. Ryder edged one from Muralitharan to the wicket-keeper while Guptill had no reply to a Lasith Malinga yorker.

Ross Taylor and Scott Styris did for New Zealand what Jonathon Trott and Eoin Morgan had for England against Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals, steadily but rather slowly got the score up. Unfortunately, for the New Zealanders, the partnership of 77 runs was broken off a delivery that Taylor should have probably sent to the fence.

The intention was there as well, but the short ball was only pulled to the deep fielder. With Taylor gone, there was a cameo from Kane Williamson but after Scott Styris departed for a matured half-century, the rest of the side was bowled out for 217. They faced seven balls lesser than the stipulated 50 overs, but given the rampaging form that Sri Lanka were in with the bat, it barely looked like it would have made too much difference.

Muthiah Muralitharan, playing in his last international game at home, signed off with a couple of wickets, including one off the last ball of his spell.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 217 all out in 48.5 overs (Scott Styris 57, Ross Taylor 36; Lasith Malinga 3 for 55, Ajantha Mendis 3 for 35) lost to Sri Lanka 220 for 5 in 47.5 overs (Tillakaratne Dilshan 73, Kumar Sangakkara 54; Daniel Vettori 1 for 36, Tim Southee 3 for 57) by five wickets.

Man of the Match: Kumar Sangakkara

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here @suneerchowdhary)

Pictures Getty Images