Tillakaratne Dilshan took a brilliant one-handed catch to end a stubborn last-wicket partnership of 41 as Sri Lanka beat Australia by 20 runs on Monday to reach the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals. Also read: Mahela desperate to win every game
Australia,needing to reach their target of 254 in 29.1 overs to reach the last four,came out all guns blazing but they lost wickets at regular intervals and,at 192 for nine,looked to be heading for a heavy defeat in the final Group A match.
But Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty resisted for 75 balls,adding 41 runs for the last wicket to give Australia genuine hope of a victory that would have sent New Zealand through to the last four instead of Sri Lanka. Also read: Australia vs Sri Lanka,Stats pack
The Australians still had more than seven overs to score the 21 runs they needed when McKay,on 30,scooped the ball firmly back towards the bowler who leaped to his left and clung on to a spectacular catch before being mobbed by his ecstatic team mates.
Sri Lanka will play India in the second semi-final on Thursday and group winners England face South Africa on Wednesday. Australia,winners of the last two Champions Trophies,finished bottom of the group and exit the tournament along with New Zealand.
Australia started brightly after winning the toss and left-armer Mitchell Johnson trapped Kusal Perera lbw with the third ball of the match.
Kumar Sangakkara,whose brilliant century won last week’s match against England on the same ground,spooned a catch to cover off McKay to leave Sri Lanka in trouble at 20 for two.
But the experienced Dilshan and 23-year-old Lahiru Thirimanne repaired the damage with a steady third-wicket partnership of 72.
Dilshan made 34 and Thirimanne reached his fifth one-day international century off 72 balls before he was out for 57,pulling Johnson to Shane Watson at mid-wicket.
Mahela Jayawardene assumed responsibility for anchoring the innings and his 69th one-day fifty was packed with trademark wristy strokes.
The former captain became the eighth batsman to score 11,000 runs in limited-overs internationals and he struck 11 fours in a knock which earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Dinesh Chandimal launched McKay over long-on for the first six of the innings in a breezy 31 off 32 balls and,although Sri Lanka lost wickets at regular intervals,Jayawardene worked the ball around effectively in the closing overs.
Johnson was the most successful Australian bowler with three for 48.
Australia signalled their intent when Watson thumped the first ball of the innings to the extra-cover boundary.
The powerful opener was bowled by Nuwan Kulasekera for five but Glenn Maxwell,promoted up the order,launched a blistering attack,hitting a six and five fours in his 32 off 20 balls.
Maxwell was bowled by Lasith Malinga,Phil Hughes fell to Kulasekera for 13 and captain George Bailey,dawdling over a quick single,was run out by Kulasekera’s direct hit.
Australia continued to play their shots and Matthew Wade made 31 off 23 balls before skying a catch to Dilshan on the long-off boundary.
They got past 164,ensuring Sri Lanka could not finish above England on net run rate,and Adam Voges made 49 before becoming the ninth man out with the score on 192.
McKay and Doherty batted sensibly,however,picking up singles at will and the Sri Lankans looked short of ideas on how to separate them until Dilshan’s inspired intervention.