NEW DELHI (AFP) – Sri Lanka ended England’s gruelling five-month global odyssey with a comprehensive 10-wicket triumph on Saturday to set up a World Cup semi-final showdown against New Zealand.
Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan, with 108 not out, and Upul Tharanga, who hit an unbeaten 102, enjoyed their second 200-plus partnership of the tournament, wrapping up victory in Colombo with more than 10 overs to spare.
The win also allowed Muttiah Muralitharan, the most successful bowler in history, to extend his 19-year career by at least three more days with Sri Lanka, the 1996 champions, facing the Kiwis in Colombo on Tuesday.
England, who have been on the road virtually non-stop since embarking on their successful Ashes tour in October, made a dogged 229 for six in their 50 overs.
Jonathan Trott (86) and Eoin Morgan (50), who was dropped three times, provided much-needed backbone on a slow, flat R. Premadasa stadium pitch.
“We lost the toss but we started well with the ball,” said Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara.
“The guys fought hard, especially fielding first in the heat and humidity and they kept up the pressure.”
England captain Andrew Strauss, whose side had endured a rollercoaster tournament, admitted they had fallen short.
“They were able to bowl a lot of dot balls at us to build pressure and we weren’t able to take advantage of the platform that we had,” said Strauss.
“But we have to be honest, we haven’t been good enough during the tournament. This was a step too far.”
Meanwhile, crack Indian commandos helped ramp up security in Mohali for Wednesday’s highly-charged semi-final between India and Pakistan, the first clash of the two teams on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Pakistan star Mohammad Hafeez insisted he had no qualms about the security situation.
“We have no fear or a feeling of any shortcomings when it comes to security,” he said on Saturday.
“That’s not our job; our job is to play cricket. To provide security is the responsibility of the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India. We are very happy and we are enjoying ourselves very much.”
South Africa captain Graeme Smith has predicted that his team will quickly overcome their latest World Cup fright night, a 49-run loss to New Zealand in Dhaka in Friday’s quarter-final.
The Black Caps, restricted to 221-8 after taking first strike, bundled out South Africa for 172 after they were sailing merrily at 108-2 by the 24th over.
South Africa have now lost in three semi-finals, two quarter-finals and once in the first round.
But Smith, who will stand down as one-day skipper, was confident the team will recover.
“This is an exciting period for South African cricket,” he said. “We have the players and the talent. South Africa deserves to win the World Cup.”
New Zealand’s joy was tempered on Saturday when skipper Daniel Vettori and Kyle Mills, as well as South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, were all fined for an ugly on-field bust-up in the game.
Mills, who was only on the pitch to bring drinks to his teammates, was then forced out of the tournament just hours later because of injury.
He has been replaced by Andy McKay.
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