Tharanga stars in another win
Upul Tharanga's rich vein of form continued as he hammered his second hundred in a row and his fourth in nine innings, to help Sri Lanka coast to a 144-run win against Zimbabwe and all but ensure a place in the main draw of the Champions Trophy. Tharanga's 110, and his 165-run third-wicket stand with Kumar Sangakkara, lifted Sri Lanka from an ordinary start to an imposing 285 for 7. Zimbabwe briefly looked in the mood for a fight when Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza were involved in a 63-run partnership for fourth wicket, but a heap of wickets on either side of the stand meant it was yet another dreary one-sided contest.
To be fair to Zimbabwe, though, this effort was some improvement on their shambolic display against West Indies. During large parts of the Sri Lankan innings they kept the runs under control - in fact it was the first time in six innings that Sri Lanka didn't top 300 - and bowled and fielded with plenty of enthusiasm, with the 19-year-old legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi being the pick of the bowlers. However, Tharanga and Sangakkara eventually turned it on, and when it was Zimbabwe's turn to bat, their utter lack of ability against top-class bowling was again ruthlessly exposed.
When Mahela Jayawardene won the toss and chose to bat, he would probably have expected another deluge of runs from the start, but Zimbabwe's bowlers weren't in the mood to follow the expected script. Sanath Jayasuriya and Jayawardene went cheaply without striking a single boundary between them as Anthony Ireland and Tawanda Mupariwa, the new-ball bowlers, kept a tight leash over the runs with their control over line and length.
Tharanga and Sangakkara began the rebuilding exercise, but after 30 overs there were still only 137 on the board, with the slow bowlers taking over from where the seamers had left off. Gradually, though, the batsmen took charge, taking more risks, using their feet and peppering the boundaries.
Tharanga continued from where he had left off against Bangladesh, driving sumptuously through the covers and point off either foot, and once even tonking Mupariwa straight and long for a superb six. When the spinners came on, he creamed more fours the offside, making room and hitting into the gaps to perfection.
Sangakkara's start was very subdued - after 42 balls he had 22 - but recognising the need to up the pace he changed gears in style, putting the spinners on the defensive by using his feet to clip it through midwicket or drive through cover. Both batsmen targeted Prosper Utseya, who had a rare off day and even bowled a couple of no-balls, and Kamungozi in a seven over burst which fetched 65 and changed the momentum of the innings completely.
Both Tharanga and Sangakkara - who went past 5000 ODI runs during his innings - fell in successive overs after adding 165, the highest third-wicket partnership in Champions Trophy history. Sri Lanka lost a couple of quick wickets thereafter, and though Marvan Atapattu batted with plenty of urgency at No.5, Sri Lanka managed only 65 in their last ten overs, with Kamugozi showing plenty of maturity in bowling during the slog.
As it turned out, the total was more than sufficient. There was a brief threat - and signs of a challenge - during a 12-over period when Taylor and Masakadza went after the bowlers with aplomb, flaying fours through the off side against a listless Dilhara Fernando and Farveez Maharoof and forcing Jayawardene to cast furtive glances at the scorecard. However, both bowlers hit back with wickets, and when Zimbabwe lost three in five balls - including those of Taylor and Masakadza - to slump to 89 for 6, the match was as good as over. Utseya and Mupariwa resisted stoutly, but it only served to delay the inevitable and marginally reduce the margin of defeat.
Sanath Jayasuriya run out (Chigumbura) 9 (38 for 1)
Backed up too far at non-striker's end as Tharanga played to mid-off
Mahela Jayawardene c Taylor b Ireland 4 (49 for 2)
Chased a wide one and feathered a nick
Upul Tharanga b Matsikenyeri 110 (214 for 3)
Tried to hoick through leg and missed
Kumar Sangakkara c Matsikenyeri b Chibhabha 80 (219 for 4)
Lofted down to long-off
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Kamungozi b Utseya 6 (235 for 5)
Swept to short fine leg
Farveez Maharoof lbw b Kamungozi 13 (259 for 6)
Tried to sweep a straight one and was trapped in front
Muttiah Muralitharan c Matsikenyeri b Kamungozi 10 (273 for 7)
Clubbed down to long-off
Piet Rinke b Perera 1 (7 for 1)
Inside-edged a full-length ball that swung in
Tafadzwa Mufambisi c Jayawardene b Malinga 5 (7 for 2)
Edged a lifter, well taken high at second slip
Chibhabha c Dilshan b Malinga 4 (23 for 3)
Guided to third slip
Brendan Taylor b Fernando 30 (86 for 4) Beaten comprehensively by one which nipped back and took middle
Hamilton Masakadza c Sangakkara b Maharoof 30 (86 for 5)
Edged a delivery which lifted and left him
Elton Chigumbura run out 2 (89 for 6)
Went for a third run which was refused by the non-striker
Stuart Matsikenyeri c Jayasuriya b Fernando 2 (107 for 7)
Gloved a short ball which looped to first slip
Prosper Utseya c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 20 (126 for 8)
Edged a doosra to slip
Anthony Ireland c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 0 (134 for 9)
Nicked a doosra
Tawanda Mupariwa b Malinga 20 (141 all out)
Lashed out and missed at one that clipped off stump
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo