Home by a mile

Published : Jun 27, 2009 00:00 IST

Ajantha Mendis... superb spell.-AP
Ajantha Mendis... superb spell.-AP

Ajantha Mendis... superb spell.-AP

There was little respite for the Kiwis as the Lankans hunted as a pack, their sharp fielding backing the bowling. S. Dinakar reports.

The quality of a side is not measured by talent alone. How it responds to pressure situations and adversity also matters. Sri Lanka is blessed on both counts. It has men with immense ability; it also has players who deliver at the crunch.

Despite winning the first two games in the Super Eight, Kumar Sangakkara’s men found themselves — after an interplay of the other results in the group and the net run-rate — in a must-win situation against New Zealand.

Sri Lanka put 158 on the board and then its bewildering mix of bowlers harried the Kiwis with precision and variety. The Lankans were home by a mile. They had also booked a place in the semifinal.

Ajantha Mendis bowled with skill and calm. When the dangerous Ross Taylor took guard outside the crease he consumed the batsman — it was the ninth over of the game — with a quicker delivery outside off. Wicketkeeper Sangakkara removed the bails.

Unable to read Mendis, the Kiwis lost their way. When they played for turn, the ball went through straight. And they also ended up playing inside the line as the ball spun away. With every dot ball, the stress increased. And pressure produces wickets.

Scott Styris perished in the same over in which Taylor departed. New Zealand was 64 for four. The side took the fast track to defeat.

Situations make heroes and some unfancied names have taken wing for Sri Lanka in the competition. Among them is left-arm paceman Isuru Udana. When the heavy-hitting Jacob Oram unwound for the big hit, he found the ball coming to him slower than expected. Udana had rolled his fingers over the ball to take the pace off. Soon, the big left-hander was on his way back.

Udana also prised out another potential match-winner. Brendon McCullum swung across the line to be picked up at mid-wicket. Change of pace worked again.

Martin Guptill (43, 35, 4x4, 1x6) offered a measure of resistance. He struck slinger Lasith Malinga straight and hard and found gaps on the off-side. Old fox Sanath Jayasuriya eventually got him to, fatally, miscue a sweep.

Aaron Redmond fired at the start with some powerful stroke-play against Jayasuriya — introduced early by Sangakkara — before Malinga deceived him with a slower ball.

There was little respite for the Kiwis as the Lankans hunted as a pack, their sharp fielding backing the bowling. Muttiah Muralitharan was spot on even as he brought his variations into play. This is a side — given its depth in bowling — that will back its chances if the batsmen put runs on the board. Lanka closed out the match.

Earlier, the admirable Tillekeratne Dilshan (48, 36b, 5x4) sparkled again for Sri Lanka after Jayasuriya heaved across off-spinner Nathan McCullum and paid the price. Dilshan once again innovated. He opened up gaps, got the bowlers to change their line and picked runs with ease. He drove, cut, pulled, swept and directed the ball over the keeper’s head. Much of Sangakkara’s cover-driving — the skipper made a-run-a-ball 35 — was gorgeous.

Left-armer Vettori, who gave the ball air and bowled a lovely off-stump line, impressed. The Sri Lankans could not quite force the pace in the middle-overs but former captain Mahela Jayawardene sizzled towards the end, adding valuable runs. An inside-out cover-drive off paceman Ian Butler screamed for attention. He also reverse-swept the accurate Oram off the back of his willow.

The Lankans have been creative in Twenty20. It has not all been slam-bang.


New Zealand v Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka won by 48 runs.

Sri Lanka: T. Dilshan c B. McCullum b Vettori 48; S. Jayasuriya c Taylor b N. McCullum 0; C. Silva c Oram b Mills 13; K. Sangakkara c Styris b Vettori 35; M. Jayawardene (not out) 41; J. Mubarak lbw b Butler 8; A. Mathews (not out) 6; Extras (b-1, lb-1, w-4, nb-1) 7. Total (for five wkts., in 20 overs) 158.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-25, 3-87, 4-137, 5-147.

New Zealand bowling: N. McCullum 4-0-22-1; Mills 4-0-41-1; Oram 4-0-23-0; Butler 3-0-29-1; Vettori 4-0-32-2; Styris 1-0-9-0.

New Zealand: B. McCullum c Mubarak b Udana 10; A. Redmond c Silva b Malinga 23; M. Guptill c Mathews b Jayasuriya 43; L. Taylor st. Sangakkara b Mendis 8; S. Styris b Mendis 2; J. Oram b Udana 7; P. McGlashan c Mubarak b Mendis 2; N. McCullum (run out) 2; D. Vettori c Malinga b Muralitharan 3; K. Mills (run out) 4; I. Butler (not out) 2; Extras (lb-1, w-3) 4. Total (in 17 overs) 110.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-39, 3-64, 4-66, 5-93, 6-95, 7-98, 8-100, 9-102.

Sri Lanka bowling: Udana 3-0-17-2; Jayasuriya 3-0-28-1; Muralitharan 4-0-18-1; Malinga 3-0-26-1; Mendis 3-0-9-3; Dilshan 1-0-11-0.

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