An absolutely brilliant innings by Mahela Jayawardene shattered the hopes of New Zealand getting past the semi-final stage for the first time in their fifth attempt. Jayawardene’s superbly paced innings, which had almost all the necessary qualities of being labeled as one of the greatest innings in World Cup history, gave a lesson to all those non-Australian teams how can a team build big totals without having the heavy hitters and massive batsmen with the physiques of Hayden, Symonds & Watson in the team and even after going through the PowerPlays without a boundary.
The match everyone thought would be decided by who wins the battle between Bond and Jayasuriya. In fact no showdown took place between the duos as Jayasuriya lasted just six deliveries before he completely missed the line of a Franklin’s incoming delivery and was clean bowled for a single even before he could take guard against Shane Bond. In the end neither of them really mattered in the outcome of the game, if you discount Bond’s dropped catch of Jayawardene when he was on 70 and Jayasuriya’s couple of wickets at a stage when it was clearly known which direction the match was headed.
Jayawardene’s innings might have changed the mindsets of South Africa’s Coach Micky Arthur, Captain Graeme Smith and the media back in Jacques Kallis’ home country. Their chances will be higher against Australia if they allow Kallis to continue playing in his natural style. The results may be devastating as they have experienced in their Super 8s game against New Zealand, if he is asked to alter his way of building an innings. Jayawardene proved today that you definitely need his type of batting in a One Day game especially when the flamboyant openers like Jayasuriya, Graeme Smith, and Virendra Sewhag are out early and you still want to build big totals around a batsman who is willing to bat it out till the end of 50 overs.
During the initial phases of his innings Jayawardene crawled even slower than the usual suspects Wall ‘Dravid’ and Jacques Kallis. He came into bat when Sri Lanka lost Sangakkara to the first ball of the 14th over and the score was just 67 with Upul Tharanga batting on 40. He opened his account only in the 16th over after blocking nine deliveries and did not reach double figures till Tharanga got out for 73 with the score card reading Nelson (111) in spite of playing 33 balls. After playing 47 balls Jayawardene’s strike rate was still under 30. His first boundary came off the 48th ball he faced, the second of 66th and the 3rd of 73, but then runs flowed from his bat as he hit seven more boundaries and three sixes as he hammered 60 runs of the last 27 deliveries he faced and from a dismal 29.82 he ended the innings with a strike rate of 105.50. With their skipper in full flow Sri Lanka moved their score from 187 to 289 during the last ten overs losing just one wicket. A staggering 102 runs were added during that period as none of the Kiwi bowlers could restrict the barrage of boundaries. If it was Tharanga at the start of the innings who went head on with the New Zealand bowlers and made a valuable 73 under tremendous pressure of still being in the team in place of Marvin Atapattu, Dilshan provided the same kind of impetus at the start of the slog overs with a quick-fire 30
One of the most remarkable features of Jayawardene’s innings was the tremendous nonchalance and calmness he displayed. Being the captain and standing at the opposite end he witnessed two of the worst umpiring decisions of this tournament handed over by two of the best in the business going against his side at crucial times. He did not show a wee-bit of anger on his face and became more resolute to stay at the wicket till the end with some kind of total in his mind. If at all there was any anger or displeasure over the horrendous decisions was shown by him it might have been experienced by only the Kiwi bowlers and their captain through his array of strokes which put Sri Lanka in a commanding position half way through the match.
Fleming’s poor run of scores against Sri Lanka continued when New Zealand started their 290 run chase. He almost got out to the first ball he faced from his nemesis Chaminda Vaas when he edged Vaas wide off the first slip but ended up scoring his first run against Sri Lanka for the first time in five ODI innings. His relief did not last long as Lasith Malinga with one of the fastest deliveries of the match hit him plumb in front of the wicket. Malinga then tortured both Ross Taylor and Peter Fulton with scorching deliveries and rarely missing the line and length. They played and missed and somehow managed to last Malinga’s fiery first spell. Malinga’s replacement Dilhara Fernando’s first over consisted of 9 balls with 3 no balls and was a lot worse than Shane Bond’s first. He was also warned twice by Rudi Koertzen for running onto the danger area, which in turn may have upset his bowling rhythm as he ended up conceding 45 runs of 5 overs he bowled.
After Malinga completed his first spell, Ross Taylor may have thought he could go after the other bowlers. But luck did not favor him as he was adjudged leg before coming forward to a good length delivery from Vaas and was stuck on the pads with score reading at 32 for 2. Hawkeye did suggest the ball may have missed the off stump, but like Ross Taylor, Simon Taufel too was going through a rough day.
Styris then joined Fulton for the umpteenth time in this tournament and started repairing the damage and succeeded somewhat in doing so. They both for a moment raised the hope of Kiwi Landing in a World Cup final as they took the score to 105 for 2 at a much faster rate than their opponents. Styris hit three sixes with one of them coming of the bowling of Muralitharan.
As soon as Power Plays completed Tilakaratne Dilshan was introduced into the attack in a masterly move by Jayawardene and he got the much needed breakthrough right away by inducing Styris to go at him. Styris did try to go at Dilshan but ended up presenting a catch at midwicket which was gleefully accepted by Jayawardene. Styris ended the tournament with one run short of 500.
Once the breakthrough was provided by Dilshan Muralitharan and Jayasuriya ran amuck with the middle order as wickets fell in a heap and Kiwis were reduced from 105 for 2 to 149 for 9 in a matter of ten overs. Oram was brilliantly caught and bowled by Muralittharan and his next delivery accounted for McCullum with Chamara Silva coming up with a fantastic diving catch at short fine leg. Fulton then departed four short of his half century again caught by Silva at short mid-wicket.
Meanwhile Craig McMillan tried hitting at everything as he came to the crease with the help of a runner and made 25 of 20 balls with a boundary and two sixes. But he was clean bowled by Jayasuriya playing one shot too many. Then one of Murali's doosras claimed Daniel Vettori plumb lbw though slightly coming forward for a duck. Bond could not certainly do what he can not do with bowling and was duly out clean bowled by another doosra by Muralitharan to leave the match a mere formality. Murali bamboozled the Kiwi batsmen to return with figures of 4 for 31 and now leads the wicket-takers table for this tournament.
Jeetan Patel (34) and James Franklin (30*) then just extended the innings and reduced the victory margin to 81 runs before Tilakaratne came back again to end the innings by getting Jeetan Patel out caught in the deep by Dilhara Fernando.
Its celebration time now for the Sri Lankans, they reach the finals after a decade since their 1996 victory. Whereas the disappointed Kiwis head back home once again, failing to get past the Semi-Finals. Their eternal captain Stephen Fleming has just announced that he will be quitting as their ODI captain owning the responsibility. In the hindsight it appears New Zealand’s team selection for their last Super Eights game against Australia seems to have made Jacob Oram and Shane Bond ‘rusted rather than rested’.
They both took a wicket for which credit should be given to the umpires than to the bowlers. Ironically Shane Bond had his hand literally in the only chance that was offered during the entire Sri Lankan innings. A difficult catch that went through his hands when Jayawardene was on 70 resulted in a six.
Today’s ‘Quiztion of the day’ relates to the centuries scored in Semi-final games in the World Cup history. Here it is:
With his match winning knock of 115 not out Mahela Jayawardene becomes only the fourth batsmen in the history of World Cup to have scored a century in the semi-finals.
Who are the other batsmen with a hundred to their names in World Cup semi-finals and What common factor of all those three innings does Jayawardene want to avoid when his team takes on Australia in the finals on April 28th?
Remember to email your answers for each quiz individually to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line as 'Quiztion of the Day - X' (X being the question number) through out the tournament duration. Results will be first posted on http://www.dreamcricket.com/ website within a week of the World Cup Final.