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Fleming eats his words as New Zealand bow out
April 25, 2007 23:04 IST
Stephen Fleming's pronouncement that Sri Lanka often struggle in the last 10 overs came back to haunt him in Tuesday's World Cup semi-final.
The 1996 champions smashed 102 in that time to take the game away from New Zealand, with captain Mahela Jayawardene hitting an unbeaten 115.
Excellent spells from Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan then wrapped up an 81-run win for Sri Lanka and hastened Fleming's departure as one-day captain.
New Zealand, who have never reached a World Cup final, must now ponder why they lost a fifth semi.
However, Fleming was proud of what he had achieved in 218 matches over 10 years as one-day skipper. He will continue to make himself available for limited overs internationals and wants to stay on as test captain.
"To register the amount of semi-finals we've had is, I would say, a pretty proud record. We're disappointed we've not gone further, but there are a lot of sides that haven't made the semis," Fleming told reporters.
He clearly regretted saying before the match that Sri Lanka's batters were vulnerable late in the innings but accepted the heavy defeat.
"We weren't as good as we could be. It probably had something to do with the occasion. We are just not good enough. When you get to this stage there are teams that are better than us."
The Kiwis, with their strong batting depth and varied bowling attack, came into the World Cup on the back of a 3-0 whitewash over Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee series.
They then easily overcame England in their opening group match and had a relatively simple passage into the semi-finals, their only defeats coming against Sri Lanka again and defending champions Australia.
The fact New Zealand emerged as serious challengers very early in this World Cup shows how well they have done for a rugby-obsessed nation with a population of just four million and a small pool of cricketers.
That pool was greatly disrupted though during the tournament by a string of injury problems.
Jacob Oram and Peter Fulton broke fingers in the run-up to the competition and bowler Mark Gillespie arrived with a numb shoulder.
Although they recovered, opener Lou Vincent had to go home with a broken wrist and seamer Daryl Tuffey also dropped out with an arm injury.
Promising young batsman Ross Taylor missed four games with a hamstring strain, all-rounder Craig McMillan sustained a bruised foot, paceman Michael Mason had a calf problem and James Franklin suffered migraines.
McMillan even strained a stomach muscle in the semi-final and needed a runner.
The most notable absentees though came in the meaningless Super Eights match with Australia in Grenada last Friday, when key pace bowler Shane Bond missed out with a stomach complaint and all-rounder Oram rested a bruised heel.
Australia cruised to a 215-run victory, the biggest winning margin between test nations in World Cups, and although both sides had already qualified for the last four New Zealand lost valuable momentum.
Former captain Martin Crowe has been quick to pinpoint that match as a contributory factor to Tuesday's loss and said Oram should have played and Bond should not have been allowed to eat curry before the game.
Bond and Oram failed to impose themselves on Tuesday and allowed Sri Lanka to gain the upper hand and move into a second World Cup final.
Fleming is expected to be replaced by vice-captain and spinner Daniel Vettori, but he will have a tough job to avoid stalling at the semi-final stage yet again.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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