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A brilliant century by Mahela Jayawardene aided by the rain gods ensured Sri Lanka were well on their way to the Super Eight stage of the T20 World Cup 2010 after they beat Zimbabwe via the Duckworth & Lewis method. Set an imposing 174 to win, the Zimbabwean chase was twice interrupted by rain at the end of the first and fifth over. With no play possible after the second interruption and the minimum of five overs to constitute a match being bowled, Zimbabwe finished 14 runs short on 29/1. It was sadly game over for the giant slayers from Africa.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat in a must win Group B game for them at Providence Stadium in Guyana. The pitch was expected to get slower and lower as the game progressed which prompted Skipper Kumar Sangakkara to bat first hoping his batsmen would put up a bigger total than the one against New Zealand, which they narrowly failed to defend. Zimbabwe, playing in their first game of the tournament, were coming off confidence boosting wins against Australia and defending champions Pakistan in their warm up games.
Sri Lanka made two changes to their side having suffered a huge blow ahead of this all important match with the loss of Mutthiah Muralitharan to a groin injury. Off-spinner Suraj Randiv was drafted in and hard hitting all-rounder Thissara Perera replaced Chanaka Welegedara.
Zimbabwe with a plethora of spinners to choose from were not unhappy at having to bowl first. Skipper Prosper Utseya, celebrating his 25th birthday today, was confident his bowlers would put up a good show first up.
Sri Lankan openers, the in-form Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan, got off to a brisk start with the former hitting two boundaries and a six off the very first over from seamer Chris Mpofu. The miserly left arm off-spin of Ray Price was introduced at the other end and he was not spared either as Jayawardene slog swept him for six off the last ball of the 2nd over. But Dilshan's woeful run with the bat continued as he tried to hit his way back into form only to find the mid-off fielder. Thissara Perera was promoted up the order to take advantage of the power play overs but it was Jayawardene who continued to hit the ball cleanly to and over the fence. At the end of 6 overs Sri Lanka were 59/1 with Jayawardene, having scored the bulk of the runs, on 48 off 24 balls.
Finally spin was introduced at both ends with the Zimbabwean skipper Utseya bringing himself on to bowl. Jayawardene brought up his fourth International T20 fifty from 27 balls in the 8th over, the fastest of the tournament thus far, peppered with 6 fours and 3 sixes. Perera 23 (19), wanting to get on with the job he was promoted for, despatched Greg Lamb for a six but perished when he failed to find the elevation a second time, two deliveries later. Sri Lanka were 80/2 at the end of the 9th over and well on their way to a huge total with skipper Sangakkara coming out to bat. Unfortunately his bad run from IPL 2010 was to continue as he lasted all of seven deliveries, top edging a pull shot off Graeme Cremer to Ray Price who took a simple catch at short fine-leg. Dinesh Chandimal, replacing Sangakkara, was put down by Lamb at long-on off the second ball of the 13th over, a catch a fan would have taken. Chandimal briefly capitalised on this reprieve, straight driving the penultimate delivery of the over for a six but was not so lucky attempting another big hit towards long-off, this time being comfortably caught by Mpofu.
Jayawardene kept the scoreboard flowing as his partners came and went, finding the gaps and executing his shots to perfection with a minimum of fuss. Angelo Mathews lasted 4 balls and was caught brilliantly at the boundary by Craig Ervine just when the ball looked to be heading for a six. Sri Lanka were 138/5 in the 17th over. Jayawardene brought up his maiden International T20 hundred off 63 balls in the 19th over and finally mis-hit one to long on the next delivery he faced. Sanath Jayasuriya coming in at a surprising no. 8 along with Lasith Malinga saw Sri Lanka finish at a more than defendable 173/7. The Lankan run rate never dipped below the 8.25 mark thanks solely to Jayawardene's effort given that the next top scorer in their innings was Thissara Perera with 23!
Ominous grey clouds had begun gathering towards the end of the Sri Lankan innings and the skies began to spit just as the Zimbabwean opening pair of Hamilton Masakadza and Tatenda Taibu took guard. Sri Lanka, unlike Zimbabwe, opened with the spin of Ajantha Mendis who bowled just the one over for four runs before the rain came down much to Sangakkara's horror. Sharing points with Zimbabwe would see them finish with just 1 point from 2 matches and at the mercy of the final group game between their current opponents and New Zealand.
Fortunately play resumed but not before Duckworth & Lewis made their debut in this tournament setting Zimbabwe a revised target of 104 off 11 overs. The required rate before the rain break was 9.45 runs per over which marginally moved up to 10. And it was not the best of restarts as Hamilton found himself standing beside Taibu in the very first over from Malinga, who eventually dislodged the bail. Spin was quickly introduced at both ends with Jayasuriya and Randiv getting in one over each before the skies opened up again with Zimbabwe on 29/1 after 5 overs needing a further 75 from 36 balls. The good news for Sri Lanka was that five overs had been bowled which constituted a match and at that stage Zimbabwe needed to be 43/1 to win the game if no further play was possible. A trick Zimbabwe seemed to have missed given their unhurried approach on resumption of play.
And that is exactly how things stayed as the end of game was called with the next match between England and the West Indies scheduled to start. Sri Lanka had beaten Zimbabwe by 14 runs (D/L method) and will consider themselves fortunate to have got in the mandatory 5 overs. After starting the morning uncertain of their progress to the next stage, Sri Lanka now sit pretty at the top of Group B with two points, thanks to a marginally superior run rate to New Zealand's.
Zimbabwe will have to play out of their skins to get past the Kiwis. But even if they manage to a net run rate of -2.80 may prove to be insurmountable.
Sri Lanka 173/7 (20 overs, 8.65rpo)
Jayawardene 100 (64) Â Â Â Â Â Price 2-31
Perera 23 (19) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Lamb 2-34
Zimbabwe 29/1 (5 overs, 5.8rpo)
Taibu 12* (13)
Taylor 11* (11)
Sri Lanka won by 14 runs (D/L method)
Also read: West Indies vs. England Match Preview
File Photo Copyright: ICC World T20
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