COLOMBO, (Reuters) – A drained Tillakaratne Dilshan was helped out of the park but not before his all-round show had taken Sri Lanka closer to their second World Cup title while prolonging England’s agonising wait for their first yesterday.
The 34-year-old Sri Lankan had a night to prepare for his new ball role and the part-time spinner responded by removing rival skipper Andrew Strauss in the eighth over to draw the first blood in the quarter-final.
When the 1996 champions returned to chase down a 230-run target, Dilshan (108 not out) helped himself to his second century of the tournament, as did his opening partner Upul Tharanga (102 not out), against England’s jaded attack to complete a facile 10-wicket victory.
“I asked (captain Kumar) Sangakkara if there was a chance to bowl with the new ball. I can bowl 6-7 overs with the new ball,” Dilshan said after setting up Sri Lanka’s semi-final clash with New Zealand at the same R Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday.
“He told me yesterday and I was not nervous. I have done it before as well.”
England, having amused and bemused in equal measure with their amazing inconsistency, finally go home after yet another futile attempt at grabbing the ODI World Cup that has been eluding them since 1975.
“We’ve been thoroughly beaten by a better side today… over the course of the tournament, our cricket hasn’t been good enough,” Strauss said.
“We have to be honest of ourselves. We didn’t play well enough and that’s why we are going home.”
Early indications, however, suggested England might escape to another lucky victory when Jonathan Trott (86) and Eoin Morgan (50) stitched together a 91-run stand in 16 overs to bail out the team that was reeling at 95-3.
Maintaining the consistency that has become his middle name, Trott became the first batsman in the tournament to cross the 400-run mark while Morgan could not believe his luck as he got as many as four reprieves.
A clear beneficiary of an lbw decision that should have gone against him, Morgan found the Sri Lankan fielders were no less generous.
Thilan Samaraweera dropped Morgan off Ajantha Mendis and then Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath spilled catches in the same Muttiah Muralitharan over.
Otherwise a man of impeccable poise, Muralitharan, who subsequently limped off the field with a recurrence of his hamstring strain, was simply livid at his sloppy team mates.
Lasith Malinga, whose full toss took out a chunk from Morgan’s blade, eventually removed the cheeky batsman to deny England, who eventually managed a below-par 229-6, any late acceleration.
In contrast, the Sri Lankan openers batted with so much of authority that the closest England came to separate them was when Tharanga’s chip fell short of Chris Tremlett in the deep in what could have been a potential catch had the fielder started off early.
By and large, Dilshan refrained from playing to the gallery, the only aberration being his fluffed attempt to play that trademark scoop shot.
The 231-run stand was their second 200-plus partnership in the tournament and the all-round show, which earned him the man-of-the-match award, left Dilshan physically so drained that he had to be helped out of the ground.