Vaas emerges as the highest wicket taker in the World Cup series
Aussies nail Lanka in rain affected match

sports.jpg (18718 bytes)Rex Clementine reporting from St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
Sri Lanka’s hopes of making it to their second World Cup final were thrashed when Australia convincingly beat them by 48 runs in the first semi-final here at St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. Chasing a victory target of 213, they were 123 for seven in 38.1 overs when rains came down with wicketkeeper batsman Kumar Sangakkara on 39 and all-rounder Chaminda Vaas on 20. According to the Duckworth Lewis system, Sri Lanka should have made 172 to win the game at that stage, but they were 48 runs short and their World Cup in South Africa ended in disappointment. This is only second occasion Sri Lanka has played a World Cup semi-final. Australia meanwhile have played the last three World Cup finals.

Sri Lanka had started off well bowling and fielding extremely well. But their three key batsman Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu were dismissed cheaply and the rest of the Sri Lankan batting just gave in without any fight.

The task of the Sri Lankan batsmen was not all that a tough one in a wicket that suits their kind of batting. But Brett Lee bowled fast and exposed the Sri Lankan batsmen’s weakest link-playing express pace. First he bowled the reliable Marvan Atapattu with an express delivery for 14. The speedo-meter recorded the speed of the delivery as 160.1. He then made Hashan Tillekaratne and Avishka Gunawardene to nick back. Tillekaratne was caught by Gilchrist for three while Gunawardene chased a delivery out side his off stump and was out for one. Aravinda de Silva came in next and first stuff he was given a deadly yorker, but he played it down confidently.

While Lee did the damage from Duck Pond End, Glenn McGrath claimed the wicket of skipper Jayasuriya for 17.

Sri Lanka had to just see off the Australian new ball pair to lift the tempo against the other bowlers. But in the very first over bowled by Andy Bichel Aravinda de Silva was run out. Kumar Sangakkara just dropped the ball in front and called for a single, but Bichel got hold of the ball quickly and brought down the stumps with a direct hit.

Playing in his last One-Day International, Silva could make just 11, but he hit two exquisite boundaries exhibiting his class and the form he’s in. For the last time he walked away from a cricket ground with disappointment.

Mahela Jayawardene’s terrible World Cup continued when Brad Hogg dismissed him for five. He too was caught behind. Jayawardene played in nine World Cup matches and seven innings and scored just 21 runs in the whole tournament averaging three runs an innings. His highest score was nine.

Then Russell Arnold came in and went. He made three and was dismissed going for a big shot off Hogg. After that dismissal with no hopes of a Sri Lankan victory remaining Sangakkara hanged in there for a while along with Vaas.

In the morning, Sri Lanka would have loved to bat first on this Port Elizabeth wicket but so was Ricky Ponting and he had no hesitation in electing to bat first after calling it right in the morning. They got off to a terrific start too. 34 runs were scored in the first five overs as the Australian openers took a couple of liberties against the innocuous bowling of Pulasti Gunaratne. They scored 11 runs off his first over while another eight came in his second. When Gunaratne was bowling an Australian spectator put up a banner saying, "buffet bowling" and probably he was right.

Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya sensed the danger and introduced the spin of Aravinda de Silva as early as in the sixth over of the match. He responded immediately when he dismissed the threatening Adam Gilchrist. The batsman trying to sweep de Silva got a thin edge and the ball hit Gilchrist’s pad and ballooned in the air. Wicketkeeper Sangakkara had no problems in catching that one. The confident Sri Lankans started celebrating, but a firm Rudi Koertzen said, "not out," But to the surprise of the Sri Lankan fielders and to the embarrassment of the umpire, Gilchrist started walking not knowing the umpire had turned down the appeal and the Sri Lankans started celebrations again.

As far as team selections were concerned for this particular game the Sri Lanakns got it dead right. They packed the side with batsmen and dropped Dilhara Fernando, who had erred with his line and length throughout the tournament. However, the man who got the nod to play the game was the awfully out of form Mahela Jayawardene. If someone like Upul Chandana had been in the squad that would have been really helpful especially with the wicket assisting the spinners.

The spinners along with the ever-reliable Chaminda Vaas did the job for Sri Lanka keeping the free scoring Aussies in check. They were also brilliant in the field taking all the catches that came their way and put in an extra effort to keep the run flow in check. Only Kumar Sangakkara missed a stumping chance when Andrew Simons was on 33 off the bowling of Jayasuriya. He went onto make a top score of 91.

Chaminda Vaas’ success in the tournament continued as he got three more wickets and increased his tally to 23. First he deceived Ricky Ponting with a slower delivery to dismiss him for just two. The Australian skipper, who made a match winning hundred against Sri Lanka when the sides met at the Centurion, played it too early and his opposite number Sanath Jayasuriya took the catch at mid-off diving to his left.

He also removed left-hander Matthew Hayden when Hashan Tillekaratne took a catch at short midwicket leaping up when the left-hander drove the ball on the on side.

Having seen the side losing three early wickets Darren Lehman and Andrew Symonds didn’t take any risks and the runs came for the defending champions in the form of singles in the middle overs All three spinners, Muralitharan, de Silva and Jayasuriya bowled tightly. Although Murali didn’t get any wickets just 29 runs were scored off his 10 overs. Aravinda de Silva’s ten overs cost only 36 runs and he claimed the wickets of Gilchrist and Brad Hogg. Skipper Jayasuriya meanwhile bowled the ten overs for 42 runs and dismissed left-handed Darren Lehman and the dangerous Michael Bevan for a duck. Jayasuriya was on a hat trick after he dismissed Bevan, but Hogg played down the hat-trick ball.

With the spinners keeping it tight, Vaas was used intelligently. He bowled seven continuous overs earlier on and then came in and bowled a maiden over when the 93 runs worth fourth wicket partnership between Lehman and Symonds was broken and then again he came in to bowl his ninth over and got the wicket of Ian Harvey for seven in the 43rd over of the match. Finally, after Gunaratne went for 16 runs in the 49th over, Vaas came in and bowled the final over giving just six runs.

Australian batting has always struggled here in Port Elizabeth. Once again it did, but like on the previous two occasions in the latter stages Bichel was there for their rescue and he put up an unbroken 37 run partnership with Symonds for the eighth wicket in 37 balls. That was also the second best partnership in their innings.

Andrew Symonds was named man of the match.

All in all it was a committed effort by the Sri Lankans who played as a unit encouraging and supporting each other in the first half of the game, but it was not good enough as they were exposed against some quality fast bowling.



A.Gilchrist c Sangakkara b de Silva 22

M.Hayden c Tillakaratne b Vaas 20

R.Ponting c Jayasuriya b Vaas 2

D.Lehmann b Jayasuriya 36

A.Symonds not out 91

M.Bevan c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 0

B.Hogg st Sangakkara b de Silva 8

I.Harvey c Sangakkara v Vaas 7

A.Bichel not out 19

Extras (lb-3 w-3 nb-1) 7

Total (for seven wickets, 50 overs) 212

Fall of wickets: 1-34 2-37 3-51 4-144 5-144 6-158 7-175

Did not bat: Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath.

Bowling: Vaas 10-1-34-3 (nb-1, w-1), Gunaratne 8-0-60-0 (w-1), de Silva 10-0-36-2 (w-1), Muralitharan 10-0-29-0, Jayasuriya 10-0-42-2, Arnold 2-0-8-0

Sri Lanka

M.Atapattu b Lee 14

S.Jayasuriya c Symonds b McGrath 17

H.Tillakaratne c Gilchrist b Lee 3

A.Gunawardene c Ponting b Lee 1 Silva run out 11

K.Sangakkara not out 39

M.Jayawardene c Gilchrist b Hogg 5

R.Arnold c Lee b Hogg 3

C.Vaas not out 21

Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-2, nb-2) 9

Total (for seven wickets, 38.1 overs) 123

Fall of wickets: 1-21 2-37 3-37 4-43 5-51 6-60 7-76

Did not bat: Muttiah Muralitharan, Pulasthi Gunaratne.

Bowling: McGrath 7-1-20-1, Lee 8-0-35-3 (nb-2, w-2), Bichel 10-4-18-0, Hogg 10-1-30-2, Harvey 2.1-0-11-0, Lehmann 1-0-4-0

Result: Australia won by 48 runs (D/L method). - REUTERS