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Sri Lanka vs New Zealand: Sri Lanka March To Semi Finals In Style

By on June 16, 2009

icc world twenty20 - Mahela Jayawardene

Sri Lanka 158 for 5 (Dilshan 48, Jayawardene 41*, Sangakkara 35) beat New Zealand 110 (Guptill 43, Mendis 3-9, Udana 2-17) by 48 runs…

Sri Lanka’s bowlers once again made up for their batsmen’s inability to post a large total by slicing through New Zealand at Trent Bridge and cementing their spot in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20. New Zealand challenged the target of 159 briefly but Ajantha Mendis turned the game Sri Lanka’s way by dismissing Ross Taylor and Scott Styris within the space of four balls.

The result ensured Sri Lanka finished first in Group F, winning all three matches in the Super Eight, which means they will play their semi-final at the Oval. New Zealand, whose World Twenty20 campaign was blighted by a bizarre succession of injuries, bow out of the tournament having beaten only Ireland in the second round.

A curiously conventional innings from Tillakaratne Dilshan and substantial contributions from the experienced pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara led Sri Lanka to a challenging total in their knockout game against New Zealand at Trent Bridge. A total of 158 might be about par in the Twenty20 format but Sri Lanka have the best bowling attack in the competition and are likely to stretch the New Zealand batsmen all the way.

Daniel Vettori emphasized the importance of separating Sri Lanka’s explosive openers early and he sought to do that by opening the bowling with the offspinner Nathan McCullum. The ploy worked immediately for Sanath Jayasuriya top edged an attempted sweep to short fine leg, leaving Sri Lanka on 3 for 1. New Zealand’s start grew better when Chamara Silva, who was promoted to No. 3, was caught at mid-on off a leading edge as he tried to close the face against Kyle Mills.

Sri Lanka were losing direction at 25 for 2 when Sangakkara joined Dilshan for a 62-run stand for the third wicket. Sangakkara took the initiative, driving Ian Butler to the cover boundary off the front and back foot to begin his innings with consecutive fours. He added a third in the over by edging Butler to third man.

Dilshan, who had made a scratchy start, ensured that Sri Lanka cashed in during the last over of the Powerplay. He pulled Mills to the midwicket boundary before cutting him twice through backward point for fours. Sri Lanka scored 24 off the last two Powerplay overs and got the innings back on track, reaching 51 for 2 after six overs. Dilshan, however, played neither the scoop over the wicketkeeper not the reverse swats past short fine leg, shots that have mocked the opposing captain’s field placements in this tournament. Instead he resorted to more orthodox strokes – driving Scott Styris’ first ball to the cover boundary – before he was caught at cover by Brendon McCullum off Vettori for 48 off 36 balls.

Sri Lanka, however, did not lose momentum after Dilshan’s wicket because Jayawardene continued batting as fluently as he did against Ireland. He played his trademark inside out drives over cover, lofted a free hit from Vettori over the press box, and elegantly raced to 41 off 29 balls. His most unique shot of the day was a reverse paddle of Jacob Oram. What made it special was that Jayawardene hit the ball with the back of the bat and sent it speeding past short third man.

New Zealand came into the match with injury worries about Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor but named both batsmen in the XI. Their batting line-up is as strong as it has been in the tournament and they will need all of their resources to negotiate the threat posed by Murali, Malinga and Mendis.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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