Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga hit brilliant hundreds in a 10-wicket victory to bring an end to a wearying six months on the road for their opponents.
Sri Lankan openers crush England to seal third World Cup semi-final
The same could hardly be said of England. For them, last night’s grim conclusion could not come soon enough. They played like their minds were somewhere else, which is perhaps understandable.
England’s main core of players have spent the best part of six months abroad, with only a few days at home.
The likes of Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann have been relatively prolific with the ball for England this winter. Yet each has taken more flights than they have wickets.
They will board their last one at 10am to the UK today knowing they have lost the chance of adding the World Cup to their World Twenty20 and Ashes successes of the past year.
While Sri Lanka can plan for a World Cup semi-final against New Zealand on Tuesday, England’s players can look forward to frosty mornings, housework, and sleeping in their own beds.
For the new fathers among them, like Swann, their off-spinner, rarely will the idea of nappy changing have held so much appeal.
They may have lost the chance of achieving something enduring, but their immediate prospects will seem blissful nonetheless.
England’s malaise had reached ridiculous proportions by the end.
Adil Rashid, who was summoned to replace Mike Yardy, who had been withdrawn because of depression, arrived in Colombo from the Caribbean yesterday afternoon.
At least Rashid, the fourth emergency recruit England had made since the start of the competition, made it there in time to catch the flight home.
All the comings and goings, combined with the oppressive climatic conditions, have been debilitating enough, but that was not all they had to contend with.
Some of England’s players had also been kept awake into the small hours in the nights leading up to the game by the noise of the nightclub at the team’s hotel.
England’s management were on alert for signs of fatigue among their players.
Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan were frequently attended to by England’s 12th and 13th men during their 91-run alliance, with energy drinks ferried to them after virtually every over.
Trott, for whom piffling things like homesickness and stifling humidity can do nothing to distract from the task of run-getting, wore a cooling neckerchief for the majority of his time at the crease.
As the end loomed, England were taken to school by Sri Lanka’s irresistible openers, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga.
Sri Lanka built their 1996 World Cup success on an opening partnership for the ages. For Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya then, read Dilshan and Tharanga now.
This was the second time they had passed 200 together in this tournament, after doing the same in the pool match against Zimbabwe. This time their partnership was unbroken.
As Tharanga struck the winning runs, getting to his century in the process, Dilshan crumpled in a heap at the non-striker’s end, suffering from cramp. It mattered little. The job was done.
So international cricket’s greatest century-maker and its most potent wicket-taker remain on course for a collision in the final in Mumbai.
However, while Sachin Tendulkar continues to belie his 37 years as he hunts out international century number 100, Muralitharan is more clinging on in there.
He was pronounced “100 per cent fit” ahead of yesterday’s game, but he appeared to struggle through the final overs of his quota, and had to have the strapping for his injured hamstring reapplied on the field.
Andrew Strauss b Dilshan 5
Ian Bell c Samaraweera b Mathews 25
J Trott c Jayawardene Muralitharan 86
Ravi Bopara lbw b Muralitharan 31
Eoin Morgan c Mathews b Malinga 50
Graeme Swann lbw b Mendis 0
Matt Prior not out 22
Luke Wright not out 1
Extras: (lb-3, w-6) 9
Total: (six wickets, 50 overs) 229
Did not bat: Tim Bresnan, James Tredwell, Chris Tremlett
Fall of wickets: 1-29 2-31 3-95 4-186 5-186 6-212
Bowling: Malinga 10-0-46-1 (2w), Dilshan 6-1-25-1 (1w), Mathews 5-0-20-1, Herath 10-1-47-0, Mendis 10-0-34-1, Muralitharan 9-0-54-2 (1w)
Upul Tharanga not out 102
Tilakaratne Dilshan not out 108
Extras: (b9, lb6, w6) 21
Total: (for no loss; 39.3 overs) 231
Bowling: Bresnen 8-1-40-0, Swann 9-0-61-0 (w2), Tremlett 7.3-0-38-0 (w2), Bopara 5-1-22-0, Tredwell 6-0-38-0, Wright 4-0-17-0 (w2)
Result: Sri Lanka won by 10 wickets
Man of the match: T Dilshan
New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Colombo (1 pm UAE)
India v Pakistan, Mohali (1 pm UAE)
Final - Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium