Sri Lanka made to sweat by Cheema
Sri Lanka 153 for 7 (Jayawardene 35, Dilshan 26) beat Canada 138 (Cheema 68, Mendis 4-17) by 15 runs
Sri Lanka held their nerve to quell the plucky resistance of Canada, whose opener, Rizwan Cheema, struck an entertaining 43-ball 68 which so nearly caused an unlikely upset. Sri Lanka now face Pakistan, who earlier eased past Zimbabwe, in tomorrow's final.
Cheema's fireworks gave Sri Lanka plenty to be concerned about as Canada chased a challenging 154 for victory. However, as is the trend among Associate nations facing the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, one man does not make a team. The rest of Canada folded with Ajantha Mendis grabbing four as Sri Lanka won by 15 runs.
Nevertheless, Cheema made sure Canada didn't go down without a fight. Striking some of the biggest sixes in the tournament, he went some way in proving that anyone with a good eye (and a heavy bat) can take on the giants, particular in this format of the game. And what made his riposte so entertaining was that Dilhara Fernando had reduced Canada to 14 for 3. Fernando was carved for four over midwicket before Cheema whacked the first of his six sixes out of the ground. Again, he swung at Kaushalya Weeraratne to crack another before slog-sweeping Sanath Jayasuriya into the deep midwicket stand.
Weeraratne was clubbed for two more fours and Cheema raced to 34-ball fifty with the biggest of the lot: a nonchalant flick off his toes over midwicket. At the halfway point, Canada were 80 for 3 and beginning to believe the unbelievable. However, Sri Lanka's class spinner, Mendis, returned in the 11th over and had Sunil Dhaniram trapped lbw, effectively ending Canada's worthy resistance by now exposing the tail. Cheema went on to scorch six sixes and four fours in an innings that, although it was in vain, at least held up Sri Lanka's stroll to victory.
The difference between the two sides is highlighted in their scorecards. Sri Lanka's top scorer was Mahela Jayawardene with 35, and though they lost seven wickets, there were only two single-digit scores in what was a reasonable all-round batting performance. Jayawardene looked in particularly elegant touch, pulling Eion Katchay effortlessly for six before stepping onto the front foot to drive classily through the covers. He fell lbw to Balaji Rao, Canada's legspinner, who returned admirable figures of 3 for 21.
There were late-order fireworks from Dilhara Lokuhettige and Nuwan Kulasekara that helped Sri Lanka set Canada an unlikely 154. If only they had one or two more like Cheema in their squad, Canada might have stood a genuine chance of an upset.