New father Kevin Pietersen returns to stamp his class and guide's England to the World Twenty20 final with an unbeaten 42.
England make light work of Sri Lanka
As Kumar Sangakkara stepped aside after winning the toss on an overcast afternoon in St Lucia, his views were sought on England's poor record at International Cricket Council events. "It is the day that matters," the Sri Lanka captain replied. And he was not being diplomatic, but aware of England's burgeoning reputation in the Caribbean. Still, he would not have expected to be so outclassed.
Paul Collingwood's resolute side made Sri Lanka look a rung lower in the ability stakes, winning by seven wickets to book their spot for Sunday's title-clash in Barbados. Their emphatic win carried them to their first final at an ICC event since the 2004 Champions Trophy, breaking Asia's monopoly on World Twenty20 finals along the way. Pakistan lost the 2007 final to India, but beat Sri Lanka last year in England. If they beat Australia tonight, it will be their third straight appearance.
Australia or Pakistan, a maiden world title seems well within England's reach on the evidence of this performance. From the second ball onwards - the first was flicked by Mahela Jayawardene for a four - England took charge of the proceedings, bowling with masterly control to restrict Sri Lanka to 128 for six, with one 17-run over from Tim Bresnan being the only blot. The target was then chased down with 24 balls to spare.
"The bowling unit, they plan well and execute their plans just as well," said Craig Kieswetter, the England opener, in an interview for television after the match. "So for us, we are in a really comfortable place and excited about where we are going in the future as a team." After finishing runners-up at three of the first five 50-over World Cups, England have a far from impressive record in ICC tournaments. In the past 12 events, they had reached the semi-finals just twice and progressed beyond it once. But this could be the end of their wait, if England's bowlers could perform an encore on Sunday.
They bowled with guile and purpose, getting the Sri Lanka top-four inside nine overs with only 47 on the board. Sanath Jayasuriya was given another reminder that it is time to choose politics as a full- time vocation when Ryan Sidebottom got the edge of his hanging willow in the second over. The once-feared veteran has a top score of six in the Caribbean and an aggregate of 15 from 36 balls in six innings.
Tillakaratane Dilshan's (9) lean trot also continued as Luke Wright took a brilliant catch on the dive, running in from deep square leg. Jayawardene's sublime form then deserted him when Sri Lanka needed it the most. The opener (10) nicked one from Stuart Broad; he could have left it alone, but temptation got the better of him. That wicket brought Angelo Matthews - the hero in Sri Lanka's win over India - to the crease in the fifth over, with only 26 on the board.
Twenty-one runs later, he watched his captain Kumar Sangakkara (16) trudge back. Mathews, however, stood firm at the other end, staying until the final over to help Sri Lanka post a reasonable score of 128. He was run-out off the penultimate ball for a 45-ball 58, an admirable effort under the circumstances. Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad got wickets with their first deliveries. Chasing a modest score, Craig Kieswetter (39) and Michael Lumb (33) made sure Sri Lanka got no early success with a 68-run partnership; they had some help from Ajantha Mendis, who missed a simple run-out.
Kevin Pietersen (42 not out), returning after a quick round-trip across the Atlantic for the birth of his first child, then stamped his class with a smart cameo. Another big celebration could follow in Barbados on Sunday. * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi