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Jayawardene propels Sri Lanka into final
Prem Panicker | April 24, 2007 22:01 IST
Last Updated: April 25, 2007 03:38 IST
Sri Lanka turned in a fine all-round performance to beat New Zealand by 81 runs and storm into the final of the World Cup on Tuesday.
Powered by a brilliant century from their captain Mahela Jayawardene in the first semi-final at Sabina Park, Jamaica, the 1996 champions posted 289 for 5 and then bowled out the Kiwis for 208 in the 42nd over to condemn them to their fifth World Cup semi-final defeat.
In Saturday's final in Bridgetown, Barbados, Sri Lanka will face either Australia or South Africa, who meet in Wednesday's second semi-final.
Muthiah Muralitharan was Sri Lanka's wrecker-in-chief, claiming four wickets for 31 runs which broke the back of the New Zealand batting.
Sri Lanka innings:
Two champions with impeccable credentials showed, at the start of the first of the death games in this World Cup, why it is not going to be about skill, or form, or experience; why nerves, more than any of the other factors, will finally dictate how the last phase of this World Cup will play out.
As early as the 3rd over, James Franklin served up the sort of ball Sanath Jayasuriya has built an entire career on: full in length, around or just outside off, moving in just a touch; everything in the slot for the southpaw to go forward and flick, off his pads and over the square leg-midwicket region he so favors.
Jayasuriya went forward, he flicked. Improbably, he missed. And seemingly in shock, he spun around to check the disarray his stumps were in (1/6; 13/1).
From the moment he walked out after Mahela Jayawardene won the toss and opted to bat first, Jayasuriya looked tight; tense; burdened seemingly by the weight of the team's expectations and, perhaps, his own. And a shot he has played in his sleep (I don't know, I'd lay good odds that a high proportion of his 1317 ODI fours and 238 sixes have come with that shot) misfired, just when he needed it.
At the other end was Shane Bond - consistently brilliant for the Kiwis throughout this tournament. His first spells thus far have been characterized by great pace, immaculate control, and the sort of late movement that has made life hell for batsmen of the highest class. Those spells have made him the Kiwis' enforcer - the man who creates such unimaginable pressure at one end, that his lesser partners are enabled to fire at the other.
Precisely those qualities seemed to desert him here: Bond's first spell had all the earmarks of a man groping in the dark for something - a torch, a bottle of water - he knows is within easy reach, but cannot find. Bowling seemingly in a fog, Bond overpitched, pitched too short, went down leg, went wide of off - and outside of the last ball of his first over, that got all elements just right to beat Upul Tharanga's outer edge, seemed a shadow of the bowler he's proved himself in this competition.
Then again, if the champions misfired, the first semifinal has thus far given a platform for lesser lights to step up. Again, one player on either side did just that: Tharanga for the Lankans, and James Franklin for the Kiwis.
In 9 previous visits to the crease in course of the Cup, Tharanga has managed just 219 runs. To compound the problem, those runs have come at a strike rate of under 65 rpo - neither the aggregate, nor the rate of scoring, really falling in with the Lankan game plan.
Today, he fired. He started with two flicks to fine leg off Bond; from there on he cut, drove with ease and absolute grace, he flicked, and no matter the lines or the field setting, kept finding the boundaries with almost ridiculous ease.
There were the odd near-mishaps - edges that flashes past slip and point; inner edges that flashed past the stumps; a drive that was airborne for that heartbeat too long, though not long enough to find the fielder. But that is the nature of opening in today's game, and Tharanga's near misses were not serious enough to dampen the batsman in flight.
For the Kiwis, Franklin put it all together to near perfection. He has 11 wickets from nine games coming into this match; and hasn't been as tight and economical as Fleming might have wished - but today, he was perfect: immaculate line, perfect length and variation, and just enough late seam to keep the batsmen from going after him.
Kumar Sangakkara, hugely influential behind with wickets but not as much in front of it for the Lankans in this tournament, started off quietly, seeming content to let Tharanga fire while he focused on batting long. Nothing wrong with that strategy, but if that was his preferred plan, it defeated logic for him, in the 14th over, to come down the track and play the sort of casual waft at a Franklin delivery that picked out Fleming at mid on in the softest of dismissals (18/42; 67/2).
It was a strange innings from a batsman who is normally good to watch - he neither got the range and timing on his shots, nor managed to roll the strike over often enough to let his partner do the heavy lifting. When he was out, for instance, Sangakkara had played 41 deliveries while Tharanga, who had faced 9 before Sangakkara came out to bat, had only faced a further 23; against that, Tharanga had scored 30 to Sangakkara's 18.
Mahela Jayawardene, who has towards the latter half of this tournament batted himself back into decent form, went the Sangakkara way - he was neither fluent with his shots, nor smart in his ability to roll the strike over.
The captain's comatose play has had the additional effect of dampening Tharanga's ardor. Well, almost - the batsman, shortly after bringing up his 50 (51 balls, 8 fours), went skipping down the track to pick Vettori on length, and loft him effortlessly over the long off boundary for the first six of the innings; cleverly, he then waited for the shorter length, laid back, and cut a brace behind point before ending the over with an educated outer edge down to third man for four more.
The Lankans had come dangerously close to being becalmed during the 15-20 over mark (just 15 runs were scored in that period) but as the innings approached its halfway mark, seemed to be picking up the pace again, with more determined hitting and very quick running between wickets.
At the toss, Jayawardene pointed out that the wicket seemed to not have the pace pre-match punditry suggested it would; he felt too that it would take spin as the game wore on. Stephen Fleming, who said he would have liked to have batted had he called right, appears to agree - the Kiwis have gone into this game with the extra spinner in Jeeten Patel, in place of the additional pace of Michael Mason.
Fleming used his bowlers well, taking Bond off early after a first spell of 4-1-18-0; giving the impressive Franklin an extended spell, split down the middle for a change of ends (8-1-33-2); using Jacob Oram, who with his height can create disconcerting bounce off good length (7-0-30-0) to help Franklin keep a tight grip on things during the power plays, and as soon as the field restrictions were off, paired his two spinners together to take the pace right off the game.
A hidden problem for Fleming will likely surface in the second half: Scott Styris has some kind of injury to his right hand. The fingers are strapped; the area around it clearly appears to be swollen, and he has been very ginger in the field. How it will affect his batting remains to be seen; it looks highly unlikely, though, that he can do his full part with the ball.
The key to the second half of the innings could well lie with Bond: if he can come back and find his radar, at a time when the ball begins reversing, he will give Fleming the trump card he needs.
The Kiwis had a couple of run out chances; though the ground fielding remained good, the fielding side somehow seemed to miss that extra edge - and Dead Eye Dick accuracy -- Lou Vincent brings to the close cordon.
The way the pitch is playing just now (Patel was already getting the odd ball to really `go'), Sri Lanka will likely be happy with 240 or thereabouts on the board to defend. To get there, Tharanga will need to make the most of this innings, and Jayawardene will need to keep him company at least up to the 35-over mark, so the Dilshans and Chamara Silvas can come out and play with freedom.
Progression: 1-25 overs
5 overs: 19/1 @ 4.75 (Upul Tharanga 11/14; Kumar Sangakkara 4/4)
10 overs: 46/1 @ 4.60 (Tharanga 25/20; Sangakkara 13/37)
15 overs: 69/2 @ 4.60 (Tharanga 41/39; Mahela Jayawardene 0/7)
20 overs: 84/2 @ 4.20 (Tharanga 49/50; Jayawardene 6/26)
25 overs: 111/2 @ 4.44 (Tharanga 73/73; Jayawardene 9/33)
Two `duh!' moments defined Sri Lanka's progress through the middle overs.
The first was Upul Tharanga's. Having batted superbly from the start of his innings, sussed out the wicket, conditions and bowlers and gotten to that point in the innings where he should have been looking to cash in, the southpaw gave it all way in a moment of madness.
Daniel Vettori, unable to get the sort of traction and turn Jeetan Patel was getting, had resorted to bowling quick and flat to keep the runs down. To one such ball, full and on the stumps, Tharanga moved so far across his stumps looking to sweep, he exposed his stumps and was bowled behind his back (73/74; 111/3).
If Tharanga knee-capped himself, Chamara Silva was assassinated by Rudi Koertzen who, with 174 games, is the most experienced umpire in the field.
Bond had come back in the 33rd over; in the 35th, he bowled one on a fullish length angling in from outside off. Silva looked to play on the on side, but managed only a thick - real thick - inside edge onto his pads.
Bond's appeal was more in hope than expectation; powered, perhaps, by the frustration of things not going his way on the big day. Koertzen thought about it for a few heart beats - and up went the finger, in one of the silliest decisions of this Cup. Not only was the edge clearly visible to the naked eye, umpires for this Cup have been fitted with earpieces to pick up such sounds, and the edge sounded out with bell-like clarity even on the stump microphones (21/36; 152/4).
Silva was the one who, while his captain seemed intent on keeping his wicket intact, looked to get a move on; his getting a bum decision was a setback to Lanka's progress.
The two wickets seemed to have sharpened Jayawardene's focus - with Dilshan coming out and batting in his usual bustling fashion, the Lankan captain began opening up, batting with greater freedom and adding the lofted drives to his alphabet of taps and nudges and the occasional short arm pulls that he had been relying on till then.
The Lankan captain played a couple of lovely lofted drives for four, and in the 44th, stepped further up the gears with a superb straight loft, a seemingly effortless push that sailed the ball over the straight fence, for six.
Around this period, the Kiwis began to feel the pressure - and to unravel. Hamish Marshall missed yet another in a series of run out chances that punctuated the Lankan innings; to the very next ball, from Patel, Jayawardene slog swept and Shane Bond capped a very ordinary day by making a total mess of it at deep third man. For starters, the fielder was not back on the line; he then made the added mistake of first coming in as the shot was hit; realizing he was going in the wrong direction, he jumped instead of back-pedaling, and finally ended up palming the ball onto the rope for six.
With Dilshan cleverly nudging the last ball of that over to the third man fence, Sri Lanka was beginning to motor. 14 runs came in the over; 46 came in the period between 41-45. And just when everything looked in place for the assault, came the second ridiculous decision of the game.
Oram bowled one from very wide in the crease, the angle clearly taking it down the leg side. Dilshan attempted to paddle, missed, and was hit on the pad - the strike, on the front pad, in front of leg stump. There was no way, on that angle, that ball could have hit another two stumps placed after the leg stump, but Simon Taufel - according to the players themselves, the best of current umpires -- this time raised the finger to cut short an innings that was breezing along at better than a run a ball, and terminating an 80-run partnership at a healthy 7.5 rpo that threatened to put wings under the Sri Lankan innings (30/27; 233/5)
The final phase of the Lankan innings was a master-class from Jayawardene. When occasion afforded, he was classical; when he needed to, he was innovative, even cheeky; either way, he was incredibly effective, repeatedly finding the boundary despite the best efforts of Fleming with his field settings, and the desperate dives of the fielders. The shot selection was immaculate, the placement so sure it was as if his bat was radar-powered.
It was classic acceleration: his 25 had come off a very slow 54 balls; his 50 in 78 - and from there, he raced to his hundred, with a cute paddle off Oram for four, a crisp pull for two, a blast through point for four more, to get to his 103 off 104 balls. A captain's innings, if ever there was one - he was calm throughout, in total control, seemingly unworried by his slow run rate during the first half of his innings; he timed his acceleration brilliantly, and made the difference between a par score, and a potentially winning one.
The 50 of the partnership came off 26 balls, but Arnold really had nothing to do but enjoy the show. Having gotten to his century in the 49th over, and retained strike with a single, Jayawardene greeted Bond in the final over with a cracking square cut off a short, wide delivery for four; Bond responded with a wide down the off side and when he re-bowled the ball, Jayawardene stepped into it, took it on the full, and lofted it over the midwicket fence for six. When a lofted drive ended in a single, Arnold took over, moving across his stumps and pulling a ball going outside off through square leg for four. A single took Sri Lankan to 289/5 - the slof phase producing 102 runs for the loss of one wicket, the final five producing 56 runs in a withering assault.
There was little joy for the New Zealanders in the field, and with the ball, today. The standard of fielding was several percentage points below the usual standard; the bowling largely uninspired.
Franklin was the best during the early phase, but couldn't put it together at the death and had to be taken off with one over unbowled; Bond went for 59 runs, for the one wicket courtesy Koertzen. Oram couldn't rein the runs in either, going for sixty; Patel and Vettori were all good in the first spells and ordinary at the death - and Fleming's problems were exacerbated by Styris' injury, which allowed him to bowl just one over, and McMillan, who was off the field with some sort of stomach-muscle injury.
The one point in New Zealand's favor is that they have, in the recent past, chased down big scores with aplomb. With a finals berth to gain and nothing to lose, they could go ballistic - but to do that, they will first have to get over the tremendous mental low their performance with the ball and in the field has cast over them.
Progression: 26-50 overs
30 overs: 129/3 @ 4.30 (Jayawardene 17/47; Chamara Silva 9/15)
35 overs: 154/4 @ 4.40 (Jayawardene 28/57; Dilshan 1/2)
40 overs: 187/4 @ 4.67 (Jayaywardene 46/74; Dilshan 16/15)
45 overs: 233/4 @ 5.17 (Jayawardene 77/93; Dilshan 30/26)
50 overs: 289/5 @ 5.78 (Jayawardene 115/109; Arnold 14/14)
New Zealand innings
An incredible spell of ferocious fast bowling by Lasith Malinga set the tone for the chase.
The little quick ran in like a destructive whirlwind, slinging them down through the corridor with amazing accuracy and on perfect length; Stephen Fleming managed to resist only two deliveries before succumbing to the third.
To make a fist of the chase, the Kiwis needed Fleming to fire. Malinga played extinguisher, though, with a delivery that landed off and jagged in at high speed. Fleming faced to spot the movement inwards, was beaten on a hesitant prod, and Koertzen this time had no problems on the appeal (1/4; 2/1).
Then came a period of play in which Malinga bowled, Sangakkara gathered with varying degrees of difficulty and, sandwiched between the two and unsure what he was doing there, Peter Fulton just shook his head and smiled ruefully.
An involuntary outer edge, which fell just short of Russel Arnold at slip, was the first run taken off Malinga by the bat - and that came off the 11th delivery he bowled. But throughout the opening exchanges, runs were aberrations - after the first six overs, Malinga's figures read 3-1-5-1 and Vaas was going 3-1-3-0.
It was in the eighth over, when Vaas finally bowled one wide of off, that a batsman - Taylor - managed to lay bat on ball with enough vigor to find the boundary.
Where most captains would have been tempted to keep Malinga on, Jayawardene took him off after just four overs and brought Dilhara Fernando on - and finally, the batsmen managed to get a look in. Fernando over-stepped twice in the first over; worse, he was twice warned by umpire Koertzen for running on the wicket.
A third warning would have been fatal, therefore Fernando was forced to go around the wicket, further reducing his efficiency.
Vaas, in the middle of a very long spell, struck in the 11th over when Taylor, who had repeatedly been turned inside out by Malinga and was clearly feeling the pressure, tried a hoick across the line. The batsman missed; the ball hit the pad, and umpire Taufel ruled the batsman out, though Hawkeye indicated later that the ball may not have come back off the seam enough to hit the off stump (9/25; 32/2).
The decision was not quite as obvious as the ones the umpires got wrong in the Lankan innings, but clearly, the two officials were feeling the pressure as much as the players.
Scott Styris walked out in his usual position, and from the way he started off, with two emphatic boundaries followed by a huge loft over long off when Fernando bowled the fuller length, it was clear that whatever was wrong with his fingers, it wasn't enough to affect his batting. With Styris providing the acceleration, New Zealand finally looked like getting a bit of a move on.
Jayawardene brought Malinga back for a second spell and the move almost worked. To a delivery that wwas very quick and very full, Styris looked to flick off his pads, but managed only to scoop it up towards mid on. Muralitharan raced around, dived, and held a superb catch - only to find the umpire standing with his arm out for the no ball.
Muralitharan came on in the 17th over, initially staying over the wicket to the right handed Fulton. The third ball was the doosra, beating the batsman who was looking to play with the spin - the edge flew through where a slip should have been standing.
Malinga was again removed, after just the one over; Fernando was brought back, with a change of ends probably to get him away from Koertzen's end. The move back-fired, spectacularly: the first ball was a no ball that Styris walked into and blasted back over the bowler's head, for a huge straight six.
Clearly aware the back-up seam bowler was low on confidence, the Kiwis then went after Fernando, with Fulton ending the over with a superbly flicked six off his pads, moving into the shot nicely to reduce the angle on the right hand bowler bowling round the wicket. The over, the 19th of the innings, produced 20 runs and the Kiwis had clawed back into the game.
Fulton, who had kept smiling in increasing embarrassment as the first 11 balls he faced of Malinga's managed just one touch, picked up on the momentum generated by Styris; in the 20th over, he showed off electric footwork, picking a Murali doosra, skipping down the track and hitting beautifully over the straight field for six.
Jayawardene rejigged his game plan and tried to slow the game down; removing his attacking bowlers, he replaced them with Jayasuriya and Dilshan. The move proved inspired: Styris, in a bid to keep the momentum going, looked to chip Dilshan over the infield, misread the flight and turn on the ball, and Jayawardene at short midwicket timed his jump to a nicety to grab a crucial catch (37/38; 105/3).
The Lankan skipper, who has been growing in that role through this tournament, then produced a master-stroke: he took Dilshan out of the attack after that wicket-taking over and brought back Murali, to attack Oram. The bowler went round the wicket, the batsman was unsure whether the ball was a doosra or a regulation off break; his hesitant push saw Murali dive forward, and sideways, to take a stunner (3/4; 114/4).
That was a prelude. Brendan McCullum walked in ahead of Craig McMillan, went down on one knee to the first ball he faced and looked to sweep; the doosra caught the top edge and Chamara Silva, at backward square raced headlong to his left, then went airborne as the ball dropped in front of him, to pull off a catch fuelled entirely by adrenalin (0/1; 114/5).
The next over produced another wicket - Jayasuriya bowled just back of length, Fulton looked to come on the front foot and play on the on, but played too early and got the leading edge
At the end of 21 overs, the Kiwis were looking good, on 103/2 (Sri Lanka, at that point, was 83/2). 21 deliveries later, the chasing side had lost four wickets for 12 runs - and the game, as a contest, was over; there was just Craig McMillan, with an injury and a runner, and the tail between Sri Lanka and a place in the finals.
To add an additional edge, Muralitharan begins the 26th over of the innings on a hat-trick.
Progression: 1-25 overs
5 overs: 10/1 @ 2.00 (Peter Fulton 5/19; Ross Taylor 0/7)
10 overs: 30/1 @ 3.00 (Fulton 14/36; Taylor 8/23)
15 overs: 52/2 @ 3.46 (Fulton 23/50; Styris 8/14)
20 overs: 100/2 @ 5.00 (Fulton 39/67; Styris 34/30)
25 overs: 115/6 @ 115/6 (McMillan 1/1; Vettori 0/3)
The first half of the chase had killed the contest.
Only the last rites remained, and they were administered swiftly, with brutal efficiency. In the 26th over, Murali sent down yet another doosra; Vettori pushed at it like he was poking at a snake with a stick, missed, and was rapped on the pad in front (0/4; 116/7).
Craig McMillan, in obvious pain, made a statement of sorts, hoisting Jayasuriya high over midwicket for six, then whipping the next ball through fine leg for four. Four overs later, in the 31st, he went after the bowler again, stepping to leg, getting under a straight ball and smashing it like a forehand down the line in tennis, high over the bowler's head for six more.
Jayasuriya adjusted; anticipating an encore, he fired the next ball in fuller, and quicker, to beat the flailing bat and crash into leg stump (25/20; 144/8).
In the next over, Murali got a wicket with an off break for a change. It pitched off, broke back, went through the gap between bat and pad, and cleaned out Bond's middle stump (2/4; 249/9).
Franklin and Patel then produced a last wicket stand that underlined that the demons were all in the minds of the Kiwis, not on the pitch. Sri Lanka, too, seemed to go off the boil a bit, here, with some ragged bowling and indifferent fielding.
The last wicket put on 52 at a run a ball, heading into the slog. At the end of 40 overs, New Zealand needed another 95 runs off 60 deliveries. More significantly, its score was 195/9 - against Sri Lanka's 187/4 at a similar point in its innings.
Clearly, losing wickets in a heap was what hurt the chase - and for that, the inability of any one of the New Zealand batsmen to focus on batting through, as Jayawardene had done, was the single biggest reason.
Dilshan - who triggered the Kiwi slide with the wicket of Styris - ended the resistance when Patgel failed to control a drive down the ground, and holed out to Fernando at long on (34/38; Franklin not out 30/38; New Zealand 208 all out), to give Sri Lanka an 82-run victory and passage to the final.
As performances go, it was a story of opposites: Sri Lanka got it right in every single department and the Kiwis got it wrong every time; Jayawardene didn't put a foot wrong with the bat or in the field; Fleming - the most storied of World Cup skippers - couldn't get the best out of his bowlers and managed just 1 with the bat; Bond was completely ineffective, his Lankan counterpart Malinga was totally unplayable; Vettori went for 51 and got one wicket in 10 largely ineffective overs, while Muralitharan added another four to his total.
It was a surprising implosion from the hitherto fluent Kiwis; Sri Lanka, meanwhile, upped their game several notches when they needed to, and go into the final looking like the one team capable of giving the Australians a fight - when the Aussies get there, that is.
30 overs: 138/7 @ 4.60 (McMillan 19/18; Franklin 5/12)
35 overs: 165/9 @ 4.71 (Franklin 12/21; Patel 11/15)
40 overs: 195/9 @ 4.87 (Patel 24/30; Franklin 28/36).
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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