The fourth quarterfinal between Sri Lanka and England in Colombo kicked off under partially cloudy skies with a carnival atmosphere worthy of a Lankan ground. The Lankans were playing to England's weaknesses by including three spinners in the side, and the move paid off with them sauntering to an anti-climactically simple 10-wicket victory.
The Lankans opened their bowling with a spinner for the first time, with Malinga partnered by Tillekeratne Dilshan. A quicker ball from the off-spinner took care of Strauss' stumps in the eighth over and Angelo Mathews got Ian Bell to scoop one up to short mid-wicket shortly after. The two new men in the middle were England's Wall - Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara. A torrid time was to follow for both players as they saw off the spin overs by the skin of their teeth. Around over 25, they constantly had to readjust to changes in the pace and angle of the ball, with Muralitharan and Malinga bowling from opposite ends. Murali was soon to taste success, when Ravi Bopara (31) looking to sweep him and was caught plumb in front of his stumps.
The arrival of Eoin Morgan at the crease was to introduce some excitement into the proceedings. At times when he did not score at a brisk pace, he was busy being dropped by various Lankan fielders doing a surprisingly careless job of it today. At the other end, Jonathan Trott had quietly achieved his fifth 50 of the tournament to become the leading run-scorer in this World Cup and the most successful ODI batsman in 2011.
Lasith Malinga finally got the reins of the match in hand when he dismissed Morgan (50) in the first powerplay over. The gamble of promoting Graeme Swann to provide the desired spurt did not work when Mendis castled him for a first ball duck with the score on 186-5.
At 200-5 in the 47th over, there was still no acceleration in sight and Malinga was landing every delivery in the blockhole. Jonathan Trott (86) finally called it a day in the 49th over and Luke Wright swatted at the ball fruitlessly, but the score totalled just 229-6 after 50 overs.
England took a leaf out of Sri Lanka's book by sending their best spinner, Graeme Swann, in to open the bowling. Unfortunately, nothing they did was to click in the field. Swann and Ravi Bopara got the ball to miss the stumps by a hair's breadth on a couple of occasions, but insult was added to injury when Matt Prior did not manage to halt the ball's progress to the boundary.
Upul Tharanga and Tillekeratne Dilshan had no problems whatsoever, exhibiting unchecked acceleration from the word go on a pitch getting flatter and easier to score off. Both men matched each other stroke for stroke, and reached their respective 50s and 100s within minutes of each other. The bowling powerplay opened the floodgates after a quiet spell in the middle, with a James Tredwell over being punished for 14 runs. While Dilshan got to his second World Cup hundred with around 20 runs required for victory, there were some farcical moments with him trying to return the strike to his partner, stranded on 91. In the end, Tharanga obliged by slapping the ball to the boundary with the shot that got him to 102 and won his team the match.
Man-of-the-match Dilshan (108 not out and 1 wicket) battled cramps to regain the sanctum of the pavilion. Sri Lanka will hope that he and Muttiah Muralitharan, suffering from a troublesome pull in his leg, regain fitness in time for the all-important semi-final clash with New Zealand on Tuesday.
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