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April 24, 2007
Lost Action Hero of the Day
Pity Shane Bond. Until today, he had been arguably the bowler of the tournament to date, with 12 crucial wickets in the group stages at the staggering economy rate of 2.58 per over, or less than half a run a ball. Today, however, his first over went for nine and uncertainty spread to all facets of his game. The nadir came in the 45th over with Sri Lanka handily but not decisively placed on 221 for 4. Jeetan Patel dropped short, Mahela Jayawardene swung violently across the line, but Bond - shuffling back on the square leg boundary - allowed the ball to burst through his fingers and bounce on the rope for six. Jayawardene had been on 70 from 91 balls at the time. His next 18 deliveries realised 45 game-breaking runs.
Umpiring howler of the Day
It seems churlish to quibble, given the magnitude of Sri Lanka's victory, but lesser sides would have been completely thrown by two lbw decisions as bad as those against Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Silva's was the first and probably the worst. The fact that the ball deflected almost to the fine leg boundary should have been a sizeable hint to Rudi Koertzen that the decision wasn't as clear-cut as he thought. But at least Silva had been more or less in line with the stumps. The delivery that did for Dilshan would have done well to graze leg slip.
Innings of the Day
The accidents that singled out his team-mates made Mahela Jayawardene's innings even more remarkable. There can have been few more perfectly paced performances in World Cup history. On a pitch that might have been airlifted from the Premadasa, he waited and waited to take the attack to New Zealand's bowlers, and at various stages he had crawled along to 2 from 19 balls, 11 from 37 and 17 from 47. But then his innings went into vertical take-off, with his last 98 runs coming from 62 balls. Having failed to score a boundary in the first 30 overs of the innings, he added 10 fours and three sixes in the last 20.
Cameo of the Day
Though Mahela middled his shots magnificently, the finest stroke in the Sri Lankan innings came from the man who set the early pace of the innings while all around him struggled to settle. Upul Tharanga entered the match with just 17 runs in his last three innings and was under severe pressure to perform, but with the backing of his captain and coach, he set about the Kiwis with a licence to be streaky. Third man and backward point were favoured areas, but the one shot that he truly nailed was a full flat drive over extra cover for six off Daniel Vettori. That boy can middle it when he gets going.
Over of the Day
Even when you know roughly what to expect (as Stephen Fleming claimed he did on the eve of the match) it's still a shock when the hard new white ball fizzes out of the umpire's midriff at speeds in excess of 94mph. Lasith Malinga had been missing for Sri Lanka's last three matches, including the Super Eights victory over New Zealand in Grenada, and the shock of his sudden appearance was too much for Fleming. - With a diffident shuffle to the crease and a violent whang of the shoulder, he pinned Fleming lbw with a perfect low-slung curve-ball, in the midst of one of the most unplayable maiden overs imaginable.
Catch of the Day
... was the one that got away. Muttiah Muralitharan was apparently being treated for a leg injury on the eve of the match, but he showed no signs of hindrance as he stooped and swooped to grab hold of Scott Styris's check drive to short midwicket. Lasith Malinga, however, had overstepped by a mile, and Murali's celebrations were cut short by the umpire's signal of no-ball. Undaunted, Murali decided that diving catches were the way forward, and seven overs later he produced one off his own bowling instead, juggling the ball as he fell to the turf to send Jacob Oram on his way and hasten New Zealand's demise.
Rearguard of the Day
New Zealand never came close to parity once that first Malinga over had fizzed by, but they still refused to die wondering, and even cracked seven sixes to Sri Lanka's five in the course of their innings. Three of those came from the blade of Styris, the nearly-man's Man of the Tournament. He has had a wonderful six weeks, and today his farewell performance of 37 from 38 balls, in partnership with the obdurate Peter Fulton, kept New Zealand's dream flickering until he chipped a tame catch in Tillakaratne Dilshan's first over. Styris exits with a tournament tally of nine wickets and 499 runs, an appropriate figure for one who came so near, yet so far.
Supporters of the Day
Sabina Park wasn't packed by any means - all those absentee Indians are still being blamed for the holes in the attendance. But the atmosphere picked up dramatically after a sedate first hour, helped in no small measure by the exultant flag-waving, tom-tom-thumping, bugle-blowing Sri Lankans in the George Headley Stand. Flags, drums and trumpets ... three of the ICC's betes noires in the early stages of this tournament. Well done them for belatedly seeing sense and ending their absurd restrictions. No kudos for imposing them in the first place, of course.