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Shaken but not stirred

Sri Lanka tame plucky New Zealand, seal second World Cup final spot in a row. Amol Karhadkar reports. Scorecard | Scoring graph | Figure this | Captain speak

cricket Updated: Mar 30, 2011 02:26 IST
Amol Karhadkar

With Sri Lanka playing in the first World Cup semifinal against New Zealand at the R Premadasa stadium, the home fans didn't mind queuing up for hours before occupying their seats, some paying 10 times the original price for tickets, two hours before the match began.

At the end of the day, the frustrating traffic and lining up in the sweltering heat was worth it for more reasons than one.

Not only did they see Lasith Malinga's toe-crushing yorker that whizzed past Martin Guptill's pads to crash into the stumps, they also bid a special farewell to their beloved son Muttiah Muralitharan, who marked his last international appearance in Sri Lanka with a wicket off his last ball.

To add icing on the cake, the Lankan lower middle order held its nerves to complete a famous five-wicket victory - it had appeared a cakewalk till the Kiwis made a remarkable comeback - and clinch their second successive World Cup final.

The fans kept dancing to rhythmic coastal songs, but had Angelo Mathews not been lucky with an imperfect Decision Review System, they could well have been silenced.

With New Zealand claiming four wickets for 25 runs to reduce the hosts to 185 for five, the target of 218 runs looked distant with every passing minute.

With Thilan Samaraweera finding it difficult to break the shackles and Mathews, who came in with Mahela Jayawardene as his runner, struggling to cope with Andy McKay and Tim Southee's tight seam bowling, Sri Lanka looked as shaky as they did during their faulty run chase against Pakistan in the group stages.

The Black Caps, on the other hand, looked well into the game, having marked a South African collapse while defending a target that was almost as small.

With 15 runs needed, Mathews appeared to have nicked one from McKay to Brendon McCullum, who was convinced the batsman had edged it.

But umpire Aleem Dar didn't seem to have heard the nick; the Kiwis referred to the third umpire but Marais Erasmus had little technological aid to make his mind up, and as a result ruled the decision in favour of Mathews.

In the next over, Mathews charged down the wicket to hoick Southee for a six and a boundary over the bowler's head to seal the match.

And off the fifth ball of the 48th over, Mathews completed an edgy victory with an edge that raced to the boundary between the keeper and the first slip.

With the Kiwi bravado coming to an end, along with the Cup campaign in Sri Lanka, the fireworks took over.

And so did wild celebrations. Not just for their home team's entry in the final, but also for the first ever all-Asian World Cup final that has been assured.

Now, over to Mohali and India versus Pakistan.