ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 semi-final, Colombo: Sri Lanka 220-5 beat New Zealand 217 by five wickets
Sangakkara will skipper Sri Lanka in the World Cup final on Saturday
By Sam Sheringham
Sri Lanka reached the World Cup final after holding their nerve to beat a spirited New Zealand by five wickets.
The Black Caps looked set for a competitive score in Colombo, but they collapsed from 192-4 to 217 all out.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (73) and Kumar Sangakkara (54) sent Sri Lanka charging towards victory before a flurry of wickets brought the match to life.
But Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews kept their cool to see the hosts home with 13 balls to spare.
Sri Lanka, the 1996 winners and 2007 finalists, will face the winner of Wednesday’s showdown between India and Pakistan in Saturday’s final in Mumbai.
And although they will be leaving the comfort of home soil, Sangakkara’s men will go into the showpiece in confident mood, and all the better for having had their mettle tested by the ever-gutsy Kiwis.
When Chamara Silva was dismissed to leave the co-hosts 185-5 in the 43rd over, their score was almost identical to New Zealand’s at the same point in their innings.
“Sri Lanka went into this game as favourites and walked away as winners, but New Zealand made it difficult for them. It’s a remarkable performance for them to reach two consecutive finals – they were tipped as one of the favourites and they’ve played accordingly..”
BBC Test Match Special’s Tom Moody, former Sri Lanka coach
With men crowded around the bat and runs hard to come by, the Kiwis sensed the chance to reprise their sensational quarter-final fightback against South Africa, . But composed batting from Samaraweera (23) and some big-hitting from Mathews (14) defused the tension and saw the hosts over the line – in the process condemning their opponents to a sixth World Cup semi-final defeat.
The victory also ensured that Muttiah Muralitharan will bow out of international cricket on the biggest stage of all, after the spinner marked his farewell appearance on Sri Lankan soil with the wicket of Scott Styris for 57 from the final ball of his spell.
Chasing a modest 218, Upul Tharanga gave the Sri Lanka innings lift-off with a gloriously clean straight six off the third ball of the first over, bowled by off-spinner Nathan McCullum.
And the batsman continued his positive approach with four more boundaries before a lusty thrash was brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Jesse Ryder.
Dilshan made a watchful start to his innings and was happy to deal mostly in singles as Sangakkara played himself in at the other end.
But the sight of the scoreboard ticking round to 100 in the 24th over seemed to provide the signal for a more aggressive approach as Dilshan pulled Jacob Oram for six and Sangakkara sent two crisp cover drives sailing to the fence.
Dilshan overtook Jonathan Trott as the competition’s highest run-scorer as he careered past fifty, but hopes of a third century were dashed when he picked out Ryder at backward point.
Spin-bowling legend Muralitharan will retire after Saturday’s final
Mahele Jayawardene was quick to follow as Daniel Vettori trapped him leg-before for one and when Sangakkara edged World Cup debutant Andy McKay to Styris at third man the game was very much alive.
A nail-biting and intense passage of play ensued as six overs passed without a boundary.
Silva eased the tension with two fours off Ryder before taking a swing at Southee and chopping onto his leg stump.
With the game in the balance, Samaraweera abandoned his cautious approach to clout Tim Southee through midwicket for four before the otherwise impressive McKay gave away five wides just when New Zealand could ill afford it.
Mathews brought the end into sight by clubbing the same bowler over his head for a six and a four in the space of three balls, and Samaraweera clinched the victory with an edge between the wicketkeeper and first slip.
For the Black Caps, there will be disappointment at yet another defeat at this stage of the competition, but there is no disgrace in losing to Sri Lanka in Colombo, and the Black Caps can take pride from their performances in the group stage and their toppling of South Africa.
The semi-final started well for the Black Caps as Vettori, playing in what turned out to be his final match as skipper, won the toss and opted to bat.
New Zealand then made a steady start through openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill in reaching 32-0 after seven overs.
But McCullum’s desire to clear the boundary proved his undoing as he swung wildly at a Rangana Herath delivery and was bowled.
Ryder was caught behind off Muralitharan and Martin Guptill (39) was castled by a trademark toe-crunching yorker from Lasith Malinga to leave New Zealand on 84-3.
Styris and Ross Taylor (36) rebuilt the innings with a partnership of 77, which looked to be laying the platform for the type of late charge that has served New Zealand so well in the tournament.
A long-hop from Ajantha Mendis provided the perfect opportunity to launch the assault, but Taylor’s heave caught the toe-end of his bat and sailed straight to Tharanga at deep square-leg.
Kane Williamson, who escaped a run out when Jayawardene missed the stumps, helped himself to successive fours off Murali as New Zealand took 21 runs off the first two overs of the batting powerplay.
But any momentum was short-lived as he was trapped in front by Malinga attempting to clip the ball away to leg.
Having been made to work hard for the first five wickets, Sri Lanka wrapped up the New Zealand innings with apparent ease.
Nathan McCullum was caught behind off a faint edge to give Malinga his third wicket before leaving the stage for Muralitharan to raise the roof at the R Premadasa Stadium.
The sixth ball of his tenth over was a textbook off-spinner pitched well outside the stumps, which gripped and turned sharply into Styris’s front pad, with the batsman trapped on his crease.
The euphoria that greeted umpire Steve Davis’s raised finger was briefly interrupted by a referral but as replays confirmed the ball would have hit leg stump, Murali’s adoring fans were free to resume their celebrations.
The final three wickets fell in the next two overs as Dilshan had Oram caught slogging and Mendis removed the final pair in the space of three balls.
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara: “The pressure was building at the end, we lost three quick wickets when we had been cruising at one stage, but everyone was pumped to give Murali a great send-off and they did a great job.
“Murali is an icon of Sri Lanka, a champion on the field and off the field. As a human being no-one matches him and he’s the ultimate team man, you can’t ask for anything more.
“I wish we could take the crowd with us but we know they’ll be supporting us and thinking of us. But we haven’t won anything yet, we need to work hard to be fresh and hungry for the final.
“We don’t care who we’re playing, just as long as we’re there. We’ll give it everything and hopefully that will be enough.
New Zealand’s outgoing captain Daniel Vettori: “We scrapped pretty hard and gave ourselves a chance, but we just missed out. The top order really set it up. We needed to be better.