- Mahela Jayawardena and Nuwan Kulasekara star in key match
- Sri Lanka meets India on Thursday
Sri Lanka yesterday beat Australia by 20 runs in a thrilling match to clinch a place in the semi final in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in London.
Sri Lanka will meet India on Thursday as Australia was knocked out in the league stage for the first time in the tournament's history as well as New Zealand. The other semi finalists are England and South Africa who will play on Wednesday.
As Mahela Jayawardene strode beyond 11,000 ODI runs, he made enough at The Oval to leave Australia with a near impossible task to elbow past Sri Lanka and New Zealand and so qualify for the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
Sri Lanka’s innings flirted with mediocrity in the face of some diligent Australian bowling until Jayawardene’s delayed arrival, which signalled a late innings surge to 253 for 8. Lahiru Thirmanne had been promoted ahead of Jayawardene at an uncertain 20 for 2, and the switch allowed the senior man to make merry in the later overs against the older ball.
George Bailey’s side must now pass this total within 29.1 overs in order to lift their net run rate to a high enough level to reach the knockout phase. It is an exceptionally tall task on a drying surface, which offered enough assistance for Xavier Doherty to return the figures of 1 for 30 from his 10 overs. By contrast, Sri Lanka simply need to win to ensure their qualification ahead of New Zealand.
Mitchell Johnson was swift and Clint McKay accurate in the early overs after Bailey sent the Sri Lankans in, and a pair of early wickets were adequate reward. But Sri Lanka rebuilt through Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan, before Jayawardene played with his familiar blend of art and invention to take the total beyond 250, after 200 had appeared a more likely tally for much of the innings.
Both sides named unchanged line-ups for the match, Australia’s options reduced for the fixture by their captain Michael Clarke’s continued absence due to back trouble, while David Warner was ruled out by his suspension for punching Joe Root in a Birmingham pub after the opening match against England. Mitchell Starc was another absentee.
The Oval pitch was brown, but overcast skies and a desire to know his eventual target encouraged Bailey to send Sri Lanka in. Johnson’s first two deliveries of the match were poor; the first clattered to the backward point boundary, the second scuttling to fine leg off the pads. But his third was straight and too quick for Kusal Perera, who was clearly LBW. (ESPNCricinfo)
Kumar Sangakkara hinted at the genius that had guided Sri Lanka to a stirring chase against England on this ground last week, but found himself tied down by McKay’s persistent line and subtle movement. Having already chanced a desperate single, Sangakkara was offered a fraction of extra width and lashed out, but managed only to slice a drive to Glenn Maxwell.
At that moment Australia could envision a slim target, but Thirimanne was sent in to steady the innings in Dilshan’s company, leaving Jayawardene in reserve. A serviceable job was done, gaps found every now and then the Australian bowlers were not gifted any wickets. It took Doherty to split them with a ball that straightened just enough to take an edge, Watson diving alertly to his right.
Angelo Mathews played a halting innings in Jayawardene’s company before losing his off bail to a nicely pitched delivery from James Faulkner, but Dinesh Chandimal was busier and more effective in a fifth-wicket stand of 65 in 56 balls. The Australians fielded soundly enough and did not bowl too much that was loose, but were left to marvel at Jayawardene’s knack for manipulating the field as the score mounted.
In what is becoming a familiar pattern, the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade became embroiled in a profane joust with Jayawardene late in the innings, and 94 runs from the final 13 overs left the Australians hoping for something miraculous.