Johannesburg: Defending champion Australia was hanging on to its World Cup title by its fingertips on Tuesday after it was restricted to 212 for 7 by Sri Lanka in its semi-final clash at Port Elizabeth.Only Andrew Symonds offered serious resistance as he hit an unbeaten 91 after his team won the toss and elected to bat on another slow pitch at St George's Park.Sri Lankan left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas took three for 34 to set a new World Cup tournament record of 23 wickets but he was also superbly backed up by the side's slow bowlers.
"I bowled very well in my first spell," said Vaas, who gave his team a flying start by dismissing Matthew Hayden and Australian skipper Ricky Ponting."I managed to find the right spot and then the spinners took over. Between us, we kept it very tight in the first fifteen overs."To keep them down to 212 should give us a great chance of winning. We have eight batsmen in the side and if they get their heads down, we can do it."Australia's problems began when Adam Gilchrist "walked" in the sixth over when Sanath Jayasuriya turned to the off spin of Aravinda de Silva after the Australians made a fast start.Gilchrist hit 22 as Australia raced to 34 for no wicket before the Australian wicket-keeper tried to sweep De Silva's second ball.
The ball looped off his pad and glove and was caught by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara. The Sri Lankans appealed but umpire Rudi Koertzen appeared to turn them down, only for Gilchrist to head back to the dressing room.Ponting and opener Hayden soon followed before Symonds and Darren Lehmann (36) put on 93 for the fourth wicket before Lehmann was bowled when he shaped to cut Jayasuriya.Michael Bevan was caught behind first ball off Jayasuriya and Brad Hogg and Ian Harvey both fell cheaply.De Silva finished with two for 36, Jayasuriya claimed two for 42 and Muthiah Muralitharan conceded only 29 runs in his 10-over spell.
Australians went into the game boosted by a 15-match winning run and also having beaten Sri Lanka in the Super Sixes here already - a 96-run demolition at Centurion eleven days ago.But they were playing without influential batsman Damien Martyn, who was ruled out because of a broken finger.The match, along with the second semi-final between India and Kenya in Durban on Thursday and Sunday's final at the Wanderers, will be played against a background of heightened security with conflict in the Middle East drawing ever nearer.However, tournament organisers are confident that all measures have been taken to ensure there are no problems at the three remaining matches."We hope and trust that the semi-finals and final will go ahead as planned. No threat of war should affect the tournament," said tournament spokesman. Copyright AFP 2001