Colombo: Muthiah Muralitharan led a pack of spinners to set up Sri Lanka's emphatic seven-wicket victory over Australia in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy One- day cricket tournament on Friday. Off-spin wizard Muralitharan finished with three for 26 as Australia was shot out for its lowest total of 162 against Sri Lanka. The 30-year-old completed the demolition job after off spinners Kumar Dharmasena (2-30) and man-of-the-match Aravinda de Silva (1-16) had made early inroads into the formidable Australian batting line-up. The Australian total was too small to put pressure on Sri Lanka who emerged winners with 10 overs to spare, with skipper Sanath Jayasuriya setting the pace with an impressive 42 off 51 balls with six fours. Opener Marvan Atapattu (51) and Kumar Sangakkara (48) then put on 75 for the second wicket to help Sri Lanka post its 14th win over Australia in 44 One-day Internationals. Sri Lanka will now meet India in the day-night final on Sunday. The One-sided contest at the Premedasa Stadium was a repeat of the last clash between the two teams, for Sri Lanka had thrashed Australia by eight wickets in the final of a triangular series at this venue in 1999. Nothing went right for Ricky Ponting's Australians after they won the toss in the day-night game as Sri Lanka exposed their batting weaknesses against spin and then made its fearsome pace attack look harmless on a slow pitch. Tail-ender Shane Warne top-scored with 36 in a feeble Australian batting performance, followed by Adam Gilchrist (31) and Damien Martyn (28). He also impressed as a bowler, deceiving Jayasuriya with a straighter one to finish with 1- 25 off 10 overs. Australia's running between wickets against an agile Sri Lankan fielding and then its catching while defending a modest total also left a lot to be desired. Martyn and Darren Lehmann (0) were run out when it was time to steady the innings. Australia then thrice let off Atapattu. The Sri Lankan opener was on eight when Ponting failed to latch on to a drive at mid- wicket off paceman Glenn McGrath (2-41) and then on 25 when Matthew Hayden reacted late to successive edges off leg spinner Warne. Australia, under pressure for the first time in the tournament, choked against a tidy spin bowling on a track where the ball came on to the bat slowly and posed problems for its stroke-makers. Aravinda was the most economical as he conceded just 16 off 10 overs. Muralitharan gave away 26 and Dharmasena 30. Sri Lanka gave just nine overs to fast bowlers Chaminda Vaas and Pulasthi Gunaratne as Australia failed to last its entire 50 overs. Gilchrist flourished for a brief spell against the pacemen, often hitting over the top to help his team race to 49 in less than seven overs. The panic set in when Jayasuriya pressed his spinners into the attack after five overs as Aravinda bowled Hayden (13), who stepped out to swing the bowler over mid-wicket but missed the line and was bowled. Australia's woes had begun and it soon crashed from 49-0 to 57-4 after six more overs of spin from Dharmasena and Aravinda, backed by smart fielding. Gilchrist mistimed a drive off Dharmasena and was caught by Atapattu at mid-off after hitting six fours in his 24-ball knock. Ponting was clueless against spin, scoring three off 22 balls before being adjudged leg before off Vaas by TV umpire Rudi Koertzen of South Africa. Smart pick-and-throw from Jayasuriya and Russel Arnold then accounted for Lehmann and Martyn. Australia was in a spot even before Muralitharan had come in to bowl as it lost four wickets for eight runs in a space of seven overs. It could never recover from these blows.
Scorecard of Semi Final 2
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