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Jayawardene gives credit to bowlers
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April 25, 2007 11:26 IST

Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene scored a match-winning century but handed the credit to his bowling attack after Tuesday's 81-run victory over New Zealand in their World Cup semi-final.

Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan took four wickets to rip the heart out of the New Zealand middle-order after paceman Lasith Malinga returned from his injury layoff with an outstanding opening spell.

Muralitharan grabbed three wickets in six balls to leave the Kiwis looking clueless against his cunning spin.

"When you have a guy like that you know that your wicket-taking options are better," said the skipper, who hit an unbeaten 115 in his team's total of 289 for five.

"But he is a human as well, he can't do it all the time. He comes up with some really good efforts for us though.

"With him, Lasith and (Chaminda) Vaas I think I have better options now and obviously as a captain that is a good position to be in."

While Muralitharan's spell turned the game in Sri Lanka's direction, Malinga had set the tone with a wicket-maiden in his first over. He claimed the scalp of New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming.

Malinga had missed Sri Lanka's last three Super Eights matches due to an ankle injury but Jayawardene said he was not at all taken aback by his opening bowler's return.

"I wasn't surprised. The guy has been putting in a lot of effort and he was very upset that he wasn't playing, wasn't part of the team," he said.

"In the last two practice sessions we saw him looking really eager and he was doing things that he has done before.


"He has a big heart and he has improved quite a lot as a cricketer in the last 12 months and I think his hard work has paid off."

The vital wicket of Scott Styris, who was looking threatening on 37, came not from one of Sri Lanka's frontline bowlers but back-up man Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Jayawardene said that surprise allowed him to turn the heat on New Zealand.

"Once the field went back after the Powerplays I thought I could sneak in maybe four or five overs but I never expected Dilshan to pick up a wicket that early," he said.

"That was a bonus, once we got that Murali came and asked me - 'shall we have a go at the batsmen for a few overs and try and pick up a few wickets?'

"That was a good time for us to put pressure on New Zealand and he picked up two wickets in that next over so everything worked pretty well. Nothing was planned, everything just happened so quickly."

Fleming, who announced after the match that he was standing down as one-day captain, acknowledged his side had been second-best.

"We certainly didn't play well enough I felt we were outclassed at key moments. But am proud of where we got to even if we wanted to go one further," he said.

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