Sri Lanka stormed into the final of the Coca-Col Cup with a thumping 106-run victory over New Zealand in Colombo today.
It was a pathetic batting display by the Kiwis who could muster only 115 for nine in their alloted 36 overs while replying to 221 for six by Sri Lanka.
The win gave Sri Lanka eight points with a match against India tomorrow in hand. New Zealand have four points and they too have a game against India on Thursday. India would need to win both their remaining matches in order to make it to the final. In the event of a tie, the head-to-head record of the two teams in this series would be taken into account ahead of the net run rate.
New Zealand lost too many early wickets and never looked in the chase today after Sri Lanka, helped by a gallant 58 off 46 balls from Mahela Jayawardene, had set an imposing total.
Set to score at 6.15 an over, New Zealand lost their first five wickets for just 18 runs in the eighth over and could never recover. Only four batsmen made it to double figures with two of them ironically being last men Darryl Tuffy and Kyle Mills.
Extras (25) accounted for maximum runs in the New Zealand innings with Dion Nash contributing 23 and Chris Harris 18
Earlier, Sri Lankan batsmen made merry on a batting friendly pitch to pile up a huge 221 for six in their allotted 36 overs in a rain-curtailed match.
Put in to bat by New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, Sri Lanka were helped by a gallant 58 off 46 balls by Jayawardene who shrugged off his poor form in this series with a brilliant knock.
Rain delayed the start of the match by over two hours and forced a reduction in the quota of overs.
With each side to play only 36 overs, it was always going to be an explosive match. Fleming did not hesitate in putting the opposition in to bat when he won the toss saying his team would rather know the target and chase it accordingly.
However, Sanath Jayasuriya and his men made light work of his decision with some hard hitting and setting a daunting asking rate of 6.15 for New Zealand. Jayasuriya and Avishka Gunawardene, who came into the side in place of Kumara Sangakkara, put on 32 runs for the opening wicket before the captain was out for 20 in the seventh over.
Romesh Kaluwitharana was promoted up the order and he, in the company of Gunawardene, ensured a scoring rate in excess of five runs an over with some intelligent batting.
Kaluwitharana was run out to a brilliant piece of fielding by Jacob Oram after making 25 with the second Sri Lankan wicket falling at 89. Gunawardene followed him soon after when he miscued an on-drive to see Mathew Sinclair taking a good catch running backwards. Gunawardene made 38.
Then came the best phase of Sri Lankan innings with Marvan Atapattu and Jayawardene adding 56 runs for the fourth wicket. Jayawardene had struggled in the earlier matches but played a gem of an innings today which really propped up his team to a challenging total.
As Atapattu did the strike-rotation job, Jayawardene, who found his timing and footwork right, went on the offensive hitting the big shots. He lofted Chris Harris for a straight six to take 11 runs from the 27th over.
That was just the beginning of the Sri Lankan acceleration as Atapattu too got into the act, dancing down the wicket to Daniel Vettori for a six over the cover region.
Runs began to flow for the hosts and they clearly looked headed towards a total in excess of 200.
Jayawardene, who crossed 2000 runs in one-day cricket, hit two consecutive fours off McMillan and smashed Dion Nash for a six straight over the bowler's head. He reached his half-ton off 41 balls with the help of three fours and two sixes.
He hit another four, off Oram in the 34th over, before
getting out, caught by Nash off McMillan, while going for another straight six.
Atapattu had earlier been stumped by Adam Parore off Vettori after making 34 runs which comprised a four and a six.
Russel Arnold played a cameo unbeaten knock of 22 runs off 18 balls towards the end of the innings to give finishing touches to a fine effort by his team.
Sri Lanka added 39 runs in the last four overs thanks to Jayawardene and Arnold.
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