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Murali weaves magic after Sanga century

Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara, showed faith in his spinners and they responded in style to help the 1996 world champions register a thumping 112-run victory over New Zealand. Abhijeet Kulkarni reports. Scorecard

cricket Updated: Mar 19, 2011 11:27 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Muttiah Muralitharan was seen hinting to the curator to cut the grass he had left to bind the wicket in severe heat on the eve of the encounter.

The curator did not pay much heed to the highest wicket-takers' suggestion, and left enough green tinge for commentators to suggest that the team winning the toss could field first.

Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara, however, showed faith in his spinners and they responded in style to help the 1996 world champions register a thumping 112-run victory over New Zealand. The massive win keeps Lanka in the hunt for the top position in Group 'A'.

The 38-year-old Muralitharan, who was carrying an injury, once again led the pack to finish with impressive figures of 4/25 in eight overs. Ajantha Mendis and T Dilshan, too, made good contributions despite dew making it difficult to grip the ball.

The New Zealand batsmen struggled to read Muralitharan. And once he ran through the middle order, the job of the other two spinners was just to maintain pressure, and the extra cautious Kiwis simply wilted under it.

Such was his guile, he was unplayable even during a free hit when Ross Taylor was bowled while trying to hoick him out of the park.

Sanga’s maiden ton

The opportunity to spin their web around the Kiwis was presented to them by their skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who scored his maiden World Cup hundred (111 off 128 balls).

The 33-year-old built his innings on a foundation of singles and doubles as he and Mahela Jayawardene (66) found themselves in the thick of the action as early as the fifth over. They stitched together a 143-run stand for the third wicket with Jayawardene scoring bulk of his runs through his deft late cuts and classic drives, while Sangakkara was severe on anything pitched short.

After Jayawardene's departure, Sangakkara began to cut lose and clubbed Tim Southee over point for two fours and a six in the 39th over to give much-needed impetus to the innings in the batting power play.

Sangakkara's departure in the 42nd over exposed the lower middle-order for the first time since the loss to Pakistan. But Angelo Mathews stood up to the challenge and smashed a 35-ball 41 to take Lanka beyond the 250-run mark.


The story could have been different had umpires upheld Nathan McCullum's diving effort to catch Jayawardene's miscued flick. Jaywardene was on 26 and Sri Lanka on 87 when off spinner McCullum threw himself to his right to catch the ball in his follow-through.

TV replays showed the bowler had caught the ball cleanly, but umpire Asad Rauf inexplicably gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman after consulting third umpire Ameish Saheba.

Power failure

Power failure stopped the game for a couple of minutes when the light tower near the Diwecha Pavilion shut down soon after Nathan McCullum was sent back by Dilshan. Play resumed with just three light towers functioning. Electricity was restored to the fourth tower after about five minutes.