A well-knit England

Kevin Pietersen held centre-stage with a stroke-filled unbeaten 26-ball 42.-AP

England's semifinal victory over Sri Lanka in St. Lucia was set up by a set of bowlers with contrasting styles who adapted well to the conditions. By S. Dinakar.

This England team means business. It has firepower in batting, has a varied attack and is sharp on the field. Importantly, the side does not carry baggage; everybody contributes.

England's semifinal victory over Sri Lanka in St. Lucia was set up by a set of bowlers with contrasting styles who adapted well to the conditions. The side is growing in belief.

The Sri Lankan batsmen succumbed to the pressure built up by the English bowlers and the fielders. A total of 128 was never going to be enough.

Fittingly, Stuart Broad was adjudged Man of the Match. The right-arm paceman nailed the in-form Mahela Jayawardene early on with a wicked, lifting delivery around the off-stump. Jayawardene nicked and the English celebrations reflected the importance of the strike.

Indeed, England was on the ball as it breezed past Sri Lanka by seven wickets with four overs to spare. It was an emphatic win.

Openers Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter, an attacking duo, powered the side to a rollicking start. Then Kevin Pietersen held centre-stage with a stroke-filled unbeaten 26-ball 42. An effortless flicked six off paceman Lasith Malinga underlined his brilliance.

Kieswetter waded into the Sri Lankan attack. He was light on his feet — he charged the Sri Lankan spinners — and struck the ball with precision and power. At no stage was Sri Lanka able to build any kind of stress. This was a very different England.

The Sri Lankan spinners Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv were dismissed ruthlessly. The English ploy to disrupt their line with aggression worked. England had a clear game plan.

Slinger Lasith Malinga ended Kieswetter's blitzkrieg with a trademark yorker and Lumb perished attempting to clip paceman Thissara Perera but there was no stopping England.

Pietersen made batting appear easy. A natural, galloping on his skills, he waltzed down the track for telling strikes. With each blow, the match got further away from Sri Lanka. Rather, England moved closer to victory.

Earlier, a combative 45-ball 58 from all-rounder Angelo Matthews took the Sri Lankans past the 125-run mark. A heavy hitter, Matthews can also apply himself. And he often revels in pressure situations.

He put on 46 crucial runs for the fifth wicket partnership with Chamara Kapugedera. Matthews thwacked off-spinner Graeme Swann over mid-wicket for a six and slice-drove paceman Stuart Broad past the point fence. Yet, Sri Lanka needed more after the top and middle order had capitulated.

There was a cloud cover for the English pacemen to exploit after Sri Lanka elected to bat. England never looked back.

Left-arm paceman Ryan Sidebottom landed the ball in the right areas. He can move the ball both ways from over-the-wicket putting the seeds of doubts in the minds of the batsmen.

It had drizzled in the morning. Consequently, the pitch provided spongy bounce to the pacemen. The lanky Broad was not complaining,

Soon, Sri Lanka was 26 for three in the fifth over. England, by now, was eyeing a place in the final. Spinners, offie Graeme Swann and left-armer Michael Yardy, bowled in tandem to choke the flow of runs.

Swann's flight, dip and deception accounted for Sangakkara. Sangakkara fell for the bait when lured out by off-spinner. Sri Lanka was reeling at 49 for four and England was full of beans.

Yardy, a handy bowler in this variety, gave little away. His quicker flatter deliveries do not allow the batsmen to get under the ball for the big hits.

On a pitch that should have ideally suited Sril Lanka, England was a runaway winner.

THE SCORES

Sri Lanka 128 for six in 20 overs (A. D. Mathews 58) lost to England 132 for three in 16 overs (C. Kieswetter 39, M. J. Lumb 33, K. P. Pietersen 42 not out).