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April 24, 2007
In 16 semi-final matches before this one, only three batsmen had scored hundreds - Graham Gooch, against India in 1987, Saeed Anwar, against New Zealand in 1999, and Sourav Ganguly, against Kenya in 2003. Mahela Jayawardene joined that illustrious list - and also equalled Gooch's 115, the highest in semi-finals - with an innings which was an outstanding example of how to pace a one-day innings.
In Sri Lanka's previous matches in the tournament the bowling had been almost without blemish, but question-marks had been raised about the batting - Upul Tharanga hadn't fired, while the middle had crumbled on a few occasions. To New Zealand's chagrin, both those weak links fired spectacularly - Tharanga scored a run-a-ball 73, but easily the defining innings of the match, and perhaps the tournament so far, was the unbeaten 115 by Jayawardene, who became only the second Sri Lanka captain to score a century in a World Cup game, after Sanath Jayasuriya's 120 against New Zealand in 2003.
Losing Jayasuriya early in this game was a huge blow, but Jayawardene soaked up the pressure superbly. With Tharanga going great guns at the other end, Jayawardene started slowly, scoring only 17 in his first 47 deliveries, which included 31 dot balls. Once he'd gauged the conditions and felt more comfortable at the crease, he moved up a notch, taking more singles, but after 70 deliveries, he'd still scored just two fours.
From there, he took utter command and simply exploded, and New Zealand wilted under the fierce onslaught. From a scoring rate of two runs per over in his first 47 deliveries, he powered to nearly two runs per ball, striking 11 boundaries - eight fours and three sixes - in his last 39. The transformation from defence to all-out attack was stunning. Sri Lanka scored 102 in the last ten, of which Jayawardene's contribution was 69 off 35 balls.
|Runs||Balls||Dot balls||4s/ 6s||Runs per over|
|First 17||47||31||0/ 0||2.17|
|Next 23||23||6||2/ 0||6.00|
|Last 75||39||7||8/ 3||11.53|
The other vital aspect in the Sri Lankan innings was the fact that they strung together partnerships for all the wickets after the first one - from the second wicket onwards, there were stands of 54, 44, 41, 81 and an unbeaten 56. That meant New Zealand never got a toehold into the game.
New Zealand were also badly let down by their star bowler, Shane Bond. Before this match his 12 wickets had come at 12.83 apiece, and an economy rate of 2.58 runs per over. Here he leaked 59 in ten overs for just a solitary wicket, and came away a distinct second-best against Sri Lanka's two best batsmen - Jayawardene carved 24 off 16 deliveries from Bond, while Tharanga creamed 13 from 11. Interestingly, Bond hasn't dismissed either batsman even once in ODIs - Tharanga has now scored 88 off 125 balls from him, while Jayawardene has 44 from 54.
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