(Reuters) – Sri Lanka breezed into the World Twenty20 semi-finals after left-arm spinner Rangana Herath destroyed New Zealand in a 59-run romp in Chittagong yesterday.
Playing his first match in the tournament proper, the 36-year-old bowler claimed five wickets for only three runs in 3.3 overs and was involved in two run outs as well, as New Zealand folded for 60 – their lowest total in 20-over cricket – in 15.3 overs.
For New Zealand, who began their chase one batsman short after all-rounder Corey Anderson had dislocated a finger trying to take a catch, Kane Williamson contributed 42 of the 60 runs while none of his team mates managed double digits in their spectacular collapse.
Sachithra Senanayake also helped himself to a couple of wickets as Sri Lanka’s spin duo returned a remarkable combined figure of 6.3-2-6-7 in a bowler-dominated, low-scoring contest.
“I trusted my spinners. Herath bowled really well, he was unbelievable,” Sri Lanka’s stand-in skipper Lasith Malinga said at the presentation ceremony.
“We were ready for this (effectively) quarter-final match,” said the paceman after Sri Lanka joined South Africa in the last four from Group One.
Once Martin Guptill was run out after a mix-up with Williamson, it was a steady procession of New Zealand batsmen who surrendered to Herath’s guile, completely undoing the good work done by their bowling colleagues.
“All credit to Sri Lanka. Herath and Sachi, the way they bowled was outstanding. They blew us away with about eight wickets for some 10 runs,” New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum said.
McCullum would not say Anderson’s unavailability added more pressure on his side and rather blamed it on the other players.
“I wouldn’t say there was extra pressure. It was sort of a quarter-final anyway. We just didn’t adapt quick enough and played some mindless cricket. Once you let them get on top, it’s very hard to stop (them). “We took some poor options today and hence we’re on the plane home.”
Leading Sri Lanka in the absence of Dinesh Chandimal, who served a one-match ban for his team’s second over-rate offence in 12 months, Malinga initially watched in dismay as Trent Boult wrecked his top order with a three-wicket burst.
After Kusal Perera fell to Boult through a dubious caught-behind decision, Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals before eventually being shot out for 119 in 19.2 overs.
Mahela Jayawardene topscored for them with 25, while Lahiru Thirimanne managed 20 but lack of partnerships halted Sri Lanka’s progress.
Jimmy Neesham (3-22) polished off the tail to restrict Sri Lanka to a sub-120 total but even that proved beyond New Zealand.
Malinga’s leadership experience was more than offset by the presence of four former captains in the Sri Lankan side -Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews, who is the current test and 50-over skipper.
“I’m really lucky to be captain of this side… They have good experience and that’s why were successful today,” Malinga said.