It was the perfect day for Sri Lanka.

During the opening ceremony Kandyan drummers ringed the boundary whilst dancing girls skipped over the green turf before Sri Lanka's captain, cheered on by 30,000 flag waving fans, led his side to a crushing victory against Pakistan.

Fears that the pressure on the hosts created by the high expectations would stifle their natural flair proved unfounded. On the contrary, they appeared to be thrilled to be playing again in front of a capacity home crowd, adrenalin flooding through their veins.

Needing to score 201 to book themselves a semi-final berth, Sri Lanka powered home with 13.6 overs and eight wickets to spare, a massive win that guarantees them a semi-final place assuming Holland won't win both their games - an unlikely scenario considering that they have not won a single game before.

Man of the match Sanath Jayasuriya, who played today despite not having fully recovered from his dislocated shoulder, was buoyant afterwards: "We haven't seen a crowd like that for some time and it really lifted the team. We had to perform today and it was a great performance."

Pakistan, their defeatist body language in Sri Lanka suggesting internal strife in their ranks, briefly looked to be clawing themselves back into the game when they dismissed Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara in the space of four balls, but Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva quickly regained the initiative with a 156-run partnership in 169 balls.

Pakistan grew increasingly frustrated. A pumped-up Wasim Akram was convinced that he had claimed the wicket of Jayasuriya when the left-hander had scored just five, and he looked aggrieved when an lbw appeal against De Silva was also turned down.

Shahid Afridi, who had precipitated Pakistan's early collapse when he was first to be dismissed in the afternoon, then lost his cool after De Silva bumped the leg-spinner aside as he turned for a second. Afridi was furious, forcing umpire Steve Bucknor to intervene.

But as Pakistan fumed, Jayasuriya and De Silva provided gripping entertainment. De Silva whipped Shoaib Akhtar through the leg-side for consecutive fours, delighting the spectators who had earlier jeered Akhtar to the wicket at the end of the Pakistan innings.

Jayasuriya appeared tentative at the start, worried about his tender right shoulder. He was nearly caught of a miscued pull but was soon back to his sparkling best, scoring 102 from 119 balls, his 13th one-day century. In the process he also passed 8000 runs in ODIs, the second Sri Lankan after De Silva.

Earlier in the day Pakistan were dealt a cruel blow when Inzaman-ul-Haq, their best batsman who averages 46.50 against Sri Lanka, was ruled out by an ankle injury. They then wasted the advantage of winning the toss on a flat, slow-paced Premadasa pitch, losing early wickets.

Afridi, playing away from his body, feathered a catch to Sangakkara before No 3 Shoaib Malik (1) had the dubious distinction of being the first batsman in history to be ruled out lbw by the third umpire.

It took about 60 seconds for Rudi Koerzten to ascertain that the ball had pitched on leg stump, longer than the recommended 20, but with the umpires only referring on three occasions during the game, two of which were for run out decisions, the game was not slowed down.

However, the potential confusion created by the new regulations was highlighted by Akram's unsuccessful appeal for a catch behind against Jayasuriya.

Akram, who voiced his concerns over the use of the greater use of technology earlier in the week, bellowed his appeal with conviction. When Harper ruled not out without recourse to the third umpire, Akram then looked aggrieved.

But according the referral criteria drawn up by the ICC, Harper could only have consulted the television umpire if he was unsure as to whether the ball had come off bat, clothing or body. If sure that it could only have touched the bat then the field umpire should make the decision without reference to the telvision umpire.

Yousuf Youhana (1), returning to the side after his exclusion for disciplinary reasons in Kenya, was run out by Muralitharan after slipping mid-way down the pitch, and Pakistan were in deep trouble on 17/3.

However, Saeed Anwar (52), struggling for form and contemplating retirement, consolidated the innings with help from Younis Khan (35). The pair added 70 before off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan bowled Younis behind his legs as the right-hander tried to sweep.

Rashid Latif scored a breezy 22 from 24 balls, adding another 33 with Anwar, but Muralitharan struck again when Dilhara Fernando claimed a good running catch on the deep square boundary to leave Pakistan wavering again on 120 for five.

Misbah-ul-Haq, surprisingly batting at No 7 despite good form in Kenya against the Australians, held the innings together thereafter with 47 from 70 balls but regular wickets fell at the other end and Pakistan only just limped to 200.