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Sri Lanka aim to smooth over batting cracks
N. Ananthanarayanan | April 06, 2007 18:03 IST
The 1996 champions eked out a dramatic two-run victory on Wednesday after fast bowler Dilhara Fernando bowled Ravi Bopara off the last delivery to leave England short of their victory target by the narrowest of margins.
The result moved Sri Lanka, who now have six points, a step closer to securing a semi-final spot but it also exposed some of the problems they face.
When explosive opener Sanath Jayasuriya falls cheaply it heaps extra pressure on the team's bowlers to produce a win, especially on mercurial off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
England skipper Michael Vaughan's impressive field placements tied down Sri Lanka to 235 all out after paceman Sajid Mahmood removed Jayasuriya for 25.
Mahmood softened the 37-year-old batsman with two bouncers, the second desperately hooked for six, before pitching the next one up to force Jayasuriya to play on to his stumps.
Sri Lankan batsmen then struggled to accelerate despite keeping wickets in hand.
The match had a special observer -- Australian coach John Buchanan -- and he would fancy his champion side to put on more pressure when the two sides meet on April 16.
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara has struggled in the last four innings after hitting two fifties against debutants Bermuda and Bangladesh.
Young opening batsman Upul Tharanga was unable to rotate the strike and took up 103 balls to score 62 against England, underlining suggestions that Sri Lanka struggle if their opponents tie them up.
South Africa cashed in on some of their weaknesses, bowling them out for 209 before securing a tense one-wicket win after Jayasuriya was out for 26.
However, when Jayasuriya notches up a big score, things are very different. He blasted 115 to guide the sub-continent team to a 113-run victory over hosts West Indies.
On Wednesday, Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene was forced to delay bringing Muralitharan into the attack as the third wicket pair of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell took command.
Muralitharan showed his value after he won a personal battle to dismiss Pietersen and trigger a middle-order batting collapse.
However, even he was not spared during an 87-run seventh wicket stand between Bopara and Paul Nixon, who did the unthinkable by reverse-sweeping Muralitharan for six.
Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene was drained by the tense result and was glad the team have a week to recover before meeting unbeaten New Zealand in Grenada next Thursday.
"It was a very good all-round effort," he said after the win. "We never gave up, we knew they were a strong side."
Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody had the players back on the field for a training session soon after the win.
"We'll get a good few days break and make sure we don't go off the boil," Jayawardene said.
"We've been playing some good cricket," he said. "Obviously we need to improve on everyday things, we're getting much tougher games up front."
The seven-week tournament ends with the final in Barbados on April 28.
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