A disciplined Sri Lanka] set up a semifinal date with India] in the ICC Champions Trophy as they knocked out holders Australia] by posting a 20-run win, with veteran Mahela Jayawardene caressing his way to an unbeaten 84-run knock at The Oval on Monday.
Jayawardene made his runs off 81 balls to propel Sri Lanka to 253 for eight in their 50 overs, leaving Australia with a near impossible task of chasing down the target in 29.1 overs to ensure a semifinal berth at the Kennington Oval.
Australia couldn’t achieve the target in the required overs and were eventually all out for 233 in 42.3 overs.
During the course of his innings, the elegant Jayawardene crossed 11,000 runs in this form of the game, the eighth cricketer to do so.
In Sri Lanka’s bowling department, Nuwan Kulasekara was the pick of the lot as he finished with impressive figures of three for 42 in his nine overs.
Going into the match, Sri Lanka’s recent success against Australia provided them the psychological edge —- in the last 10 ODIs played between the two sides, Sri Lanka have won six while they drew the ODI series 2-2 earlier this year in Australia.
A last-wicket stand of 41 runs between Clint McKay (30) and Xavier Doherty (15 not out) frustrated the Lankans before Tillakaratne Dilshan ] pulled off a brilliant catch off his own bowling to seal the issue in his side’s favour.
The move not to bring back strike bowler Lasith Malinga ], with Australia on the verge of defeat, was surprising. But Dilshan’s blinder ensured it was Sri Lanka, and not New Zealand in the last-four stage.
Adam Voges top-scored for Australia with a 62-ball 49 while Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade blazed their way to 32 and 31 respectively. Lahiru Thirimanne contributed 57 for Sri Lanka while Mitchell Johnson ] was the best Australian bowler with figures of three for 48.
Sri Lanka were off to a poor start losing two wickets with just 20 runs on the board. The islanders lost Kusal Perera early, seamer Mitchell Johnson having the left-handed batsman trapped in front of the wicket.
Clint McKay took the big wicket of Kumar Sangakkara when he had the experienced Sri Lankan batsman, trying to play his trademark shot through the cover region, caught by Glen Maxwell.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne added 72 runs for the third wicket to steady the ship, before left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty sent back the opener, caught at slip by a diving Shane Watson for a 58-ball 34.
After labouring his way to a patient 57 off 86 balls, Thirimanne was done in by Johnson as he pulled a short and quick delivery outside off to Watson at midwicket. Jayawardene then brought all his experience into play as he played an elegant innings to guide Sri Lanka to a respectable total. Jaywardene was involved in an useful partnership of 65 for the sixth wicket with Dinesh Chandimal, who contributed 31 off 32 balls.
Senior pro Jayawardene hit 11 fours, including a few cheeky ones, during his knock. Jayawardene got off the blocks with two successive fours off Maxwell’s left-arm spin. A boundary over cover was followed by a reverse-sweep.
Faulkner’s low full toss was effortlessly played down the legside for a four before Jayawardene chipped McKay over cover for same result. The former skipper then took on Johnson, playing the left-arm pacer for two fours in the innings’ 44th over. All it took for Jayawardene was a nudge and a tap to find the ropes.
Shane Watson started Australia’s innings with a boundary through covers but that was all he could do as the all-rounder was bowled by Kulasekara. Phillip Hughes lasted barely 10 balls as he too was shown the door by Kulasekara. Maxwell was cleaned up by Malinga after smashing five fours and a six.
More trouble was in store for Australia as they lost George Bailey thanks to a fine piece of fielding from Kulasekara whose flat throw from short fine leg caught the skipper well short of the crease. Barring the last-wicket pair, the rest just fell without showing any gumption.
Photo: Nuwan Kulasekara (Philip Brown/Reuters)