Openers power SL to semis


COLOMBO – Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga hit brilliant hundreds to guide Sri Lanka to an emphatic 10-wicket win over England which eased them into the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday. The 1996 champions restricted England to 229-6 before romping home on the back of a fiery unfinished opening stand of 231 in a one-sided finish, much to the delight of a packed 35,000 crowd at R. Premadasa stadium.
Dilshan finished with a 115-ball 108 not out, spiced with 10 boundaries and two sixes, while Tharanga notched an unbeaten 102 off 122 deliveries, studded with 12 fours and one hit over the ropes, as Sri Lanka won with 10.3 overs to spare. Sri Lanka will now play the first of two semi-finals here on March 29 against New Zealand who knocked out South Africa in Dhaka on Friday. Arch-rivals Pakistan and India meet in the second semi-final in Mohali a day later. “We lost the toss but we started well with the ball,” said Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara.
“The guys fought hard, especially fielding first in the heat and humidity and they kept up the pressure.” England captain Andrew Strauss, whose side had endured a rollercoaster tournament, admitted they had fallen short. “They were able to bowl a lot of dot balls at us to build pressure and we weren’t able to take advantage of the platform that we had,” said Strauss. “But we have to be honest, we haven’t been good enough during the tournament. This was a step too far.”
Tharanga hit Graeme Swann for a six as early as the fourth over and when Strauss brought in another off-spinner James Tredwell, it was Dilshan hit him over the fence. Dilshan was the first to reach his hundred, his 10th in one-day cricket and second in this tournament, cutting Swann to the cover boundary for his ninth boundary. Tharanga completed his 11th century, and also his second in this World Cup, with the winning boundary off Chris Tremlett. The pair also scored 282 for the first wicket against Zimbabwe in the group stages at Pallekele.