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    April 25, 2007

    Sri Lankan Party at Sabina

    In today's first semi final of Cricket World Cup 2007, Sri Lanka stamped their class on the Kiwis and urged on by strong crowd support went on to crush the Kiwis by 81 runs. Winning the toss, the Sri Lankans, showing the bravado that has won them many fans, elected to bat first on a wicket that promised to assist New Zealand's pacers.

    Captain Mahela Jayawardene's decision seemed to backfire in the third over, when star batsman Sanath Jayasuriya's stumps were clattered by a James Franklin delivery. Franklin bowled well at the star of the innings, but the same couldn't be said for Shane Bond, who picked the worst time to have a bad performance. His first over went for 9 runs as he strayed down leg side, allowing Upul Tharanga to glance the ball for a boundary down to fine leg. The day would get much worse for Bond.

    Bond had his worst day of the tournament.

    After Jayasuriya's dismissal, Tharanga took the fight to the Kiwis, hitting 73 off 74 deliveries. He received little support at the other end, as Kumar Sangakkara consumed all of 42 deliveries in making 18, while not rotating the strike. When Sangakkara got out, Jayawardene replaced him and struggled the keep the scoreboard ticking over at the start of his innings. His first 25 runs came in more than 50 deliveries, at a time when Tharanga was going at more than a run-a-ball at the other end. In fact it seemed that Jayawardene was more content to block deliveries rather than to give the strike back to Tharanga. When Tharanga was dismissed, first Chamara Silva (21 off 33) and then Tillakaratne Dilshan, 30 off 27, continued where Tharanga left off. However it was Jayawardene who was the real star of the show. Breaking lose of his shackles, Jayawardene blasted 98 runs off the last 62 deliveries he faced. His first World Cup ton of 115n.o. off only 109 deliveries was extremely well placed as his first 19 deliveries had yielded only 2 runs. He received a little luck though in the 46th over when a top edged sweep burst through Shane Bond's hands at fine leg, only to land exactly on top of the boundary rope for six.

    With every four and six of the Sri Lankan innings, the roughly 75% full Sabina Park cheered loudly, as horns blared, drums were beaten and music flowed from all around the ground. There were many Sri Lankans and Kiwis, but there were also English, Pakistani, Indian and West Indies supporters in attendance and the majority of them threw their support behind the dashing Sri Lankans. It was the kind of atmosphere that the World Cup had missed for much of the tournament.

    Some Indian and Pakistani fans even united in their support for Sri Lanka.

    Jayawardene's heroics had lifted Sri Lanka to 289/5 off 50 overs, presenting a challenge that seemed very steep for the Kiwis. The Lankans had scored 102 off their last 10 overs to reach the daunting total. New Zealand's ace Bond, had gone for 59 runs off his 10 overs. He had been averaging less than 3 runs per over previously in the tournament.

    Lasith Malinga bowled with pace and venom.

    When the Kiwis set out to bat, they were pinned down early by brilliant fast bowling from Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga. Malinga had New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming lbw in the second over. Vaas and Malinga took full advantage of the overcast conditions and Malinga in particular bowled at seering pace early on. In one stretch, with Malinga touching 94mph, poor Ross Taylor could not even get a touch on Malinga's deliveries as he was beaten repeatedly by pace and movement.

    After the early damage had been done, a stubborn Peter Fulton and an attacking Scott Styris took New Zealand to 105/2 in the 22nd over. Styris' innings was threatening to bring New Zealand back into the game, before he chipped a tame catch to Jayasuriya off Dilshan. The fall of Styris' wicket triggered a collapsed for the Kiwis as they lost 5 wickets for 11 runs to the spin of Muttiah Muralitharan and Jayasuriya. Muralitharan proved to be more than a handful and his off breaks and doosras baffled the Kiwis.

    Murali's 4/31 took him past the 50 wicket mark in World Cups and gave him 23 wickets in this World Cup, tying teammate Vaas for the highest ever total in a single World Cup.

    The Kiwis' dramatic slide from 105/2 to 116/7 was too much to overcome and a tenth wicket partnership of 59 between Franklin (30n.o) and Jeetan Patel (34) only delayed the inevitable. When Patel holed out to Dilhara Fernando at long on, New Zealand had lost by 81 runs. The Sri Lankan bowling except for Fernando and to a lesser extent Jayasuriya, was stifling. After such an imperious start to the tournament the Kiwis' World Cup ended with two consecutive defeats in which they lost by a combined 286 runs.

    Sri Lanka will now await the winner of tomorrow's second semi final between Australia and South Africa. After going for 45 off 5 overs, including 5 no balls and a wide and being warned twice in his first over for running on the pitch, Fernando will be hard pressed to be in the squad for the finals on Saturday, but otherwise the Sri Lankans will be looking to these same players to recapture the glory of their 1996 World Cup triumph.

    (Croos posted from Rain, No Play)

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    Thus spake Sean @ 7:44 AM |
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