Colombo, Mar 29: Sri Lanka proved too good for New Zealand in the first semi-final of thee ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and have booked a ticket to the summit clash in Mumbai in what will eventually be the first all-Asia final in Cricket's showpiece event. This is Sri Lanka's second consecutive final appearance on the trot and third overall.
The hosts appeared to be coasting along toward the target of 218, with the top three - Upul Tharanga (30), Thillakaratne Dilshan and captain Kumar Sangakkara - setting up what appeared likely to be an easy victory. But then they lost three quick wickets for 24 runs as the Kiwis pegged them back and even stifled the scoring rate. However, in the end it took the gutsiness of Angelo Mathews (23) and Thilan Samaraweera (14) to take Sri Lanka home. New Zealand spearhead Tim Southee fought hard with 3/57, ending the tournament with a haul of 18 wickets.
Tharanga got Sri Lanka's innings off in belligerent fashion, carting opening bowler and off-break Nathan McCullum for a six in the first over. The batsman then went after Southee in the second over, smacking him for two boundaries. Tharanga took a couple more fours off McCullum, till Southee retaliated from the other end to have him caught brilliantly by Jesse Ryder at point. Sri Lanka wered 40/1 in 7.2 overs.
New batsman Kumar Sangakkara edged Jacob Oram fine for a four to bring up Sri Lanka's 50 in the 10th over, before he and partner Dilshan began motoring along. The boundaries came regularly from both ends and in the 24th over, Dilshan clobbered Oram for a six and a four to take the score past 100.
A boundary came of each of the next 7 overs and in the 32nd over, Dilshan smacked Vettori for a four to bring up Sri Lanka's 150, a score from where victory seemed a looming inevitability. But then, Dilshan was out caught to Ryder off Southee for 73 before New Zealand continued to pull things back by getting the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene, for 1, in the 34th over and then Sangakkara, for 54, in the 37th over. Andy Mckay accounted for the latter's wicket when the batsman holed out to Scott Styris at deep square leg.
Sri Lanka were 169/4 at that point and encountering quite some jitters. Chamara Silva and Thilan Samaraweera tried to weather the storm, with the latter even getting medium pacer Ryder away for two fours in the 42nd over. But in the following over, Southee pulled one back when he bowled the same batsman for 13. It then took a cool-headed Angelo Mathews to wrest back the momentum and take Sri Lanka past 200 in the 46th over.
With 14 runs required off 24 balls at that stage, Mathews unleased a flourish, knocking a six and four off Southee, befgore Samaraweera struck the winning boundary in the 48th over off Andy McKay. Sri Lanka had won by 5 wickets and were through to the final...