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Sri Lanka beats Ireland by 9 runs

Fri, Jun 26, 2009 1:23 PM


Sri Lanka beat Ireland by nine runs in the ICC World Twenty20 on Sunday, but only after Alex Cusack took four wickets in nine balls as the Irish threatened to pull off a major upset at Lord's.

Cusack took 4-18 from three overs in the Super 8 match, while Boyd Rankin and Kyle McCallan each took two wickets to restrict Sri Lanka to 144-9.

Only Mahela Jayawardena, whose 78 off 53 balls included one six and nine fours, really impressed with the bat. Sri Lanka's next highest scorer was Sanath Jayasuriya, who made 27.

"We had to win," Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said. "The way Mahela batted was brilliant, then the bowling was spot on. But we probably lacked a bit of intensity."

Irish openers William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien both made 31 and John Mooney made an unbeaten 31, but Lasith Malinga took 2-19 and Ajantha Mendis 2-22 as Ireland collapsed from 87-1 to 135-7.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Sri Lanka failed to make its usual explosive start and lost Tillakaratne Dilshan on the second ball of the innings as he tried to pull a ball from Rankin and hit it straight up in the air for wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien to catch.

Sangakkara was the next to fall, again caught by O'Brien off Trent Johnston in the fourth over.

So effectively did Ireland stifle the batsmen that Sri Lanka had made only 28-2 at the end of the powerplay.

Jayasuriya put on 50 with Jayawardena, but by the halfway stage Sri Lanka still had only scored 67. That should have been the cue to accelerate the run rate and Jayawardena hit the first six of the innings in the 11th over.

Next over, the Irish struck again when Jayasuriya was trapped lbw as he tried to sweep McCallan, who struck again in his next over when he had Chamara Silva caught by Rankin.

Cusack then took two wickets in the 18th over. Jehan Mubarak became O'Brien's third victim of the innings after miscuing a pull, and Jayawardena
was then bowled.

In the penultimate over, John Mooney took a superb diving catch to remove Nuwan Kulasekera off Rankin, and with five balls left Cusack bowled Angelo Mathews.

O'Brien stumped Muralidaran for 0 and Cusack was only denied a five-wicket haul - what would have been only the second in international Twenty20 history - when Ajantha Mendis' shot in the air fell just short of Kevin O'Brien at long off.

Ireland needed a decent foundation before the Sri Lankan spinners came on and Niall O'Brien and Porterfield made 29-0 before Mendis was introduced in the fifth over from the Nursery End.

O'Brien was hurt as he dived to make his ground in the sixth over, but continued after a lengthy delay.

He clearly needed a runner, but that didn't stop him reverse sweeping Mendis for four an over later.

Quick singles were no longer an option, but the 50 partnership was reached from exactly 50 balls.

The breakthrough came when Muralidaran had Porterfield caught behind in the tenth over.

The asking rate crept up to nearly 10 an over, but after four overs without a boundary, Andrew White hit out in the 14th with a six and a four off Kulasekera.

But with the fifth ball of the over he holed out and was caught by Sangakkara.

In the next over O'Brien's brother Kevin did likewise to a Mendis delivery and was caught by Dilshan.

Three balls later Niall's hobbling innings was ended when he was fooled by a delivery from Mendis and stumped.

Johnston managed to clout Mendis for six, but was bowled by Malinga in the 18th over and the same bowler ripped out Andre Botha's off stump with his next ball.

Mooney and Cusack caused a flutter of excitement when they struck 18 off the penultimate over and needed another 18 off the last six balls to pull off what would have been a remarkable result, but ultimately it proved too much to ask as Sri Lanka's class just gave them the edge.

Sri Lanka will reach the semifinals if it avoids a heavy defeat against New Zealand on Tuesday, but the Irish are out regardless of the outcome of Monday's game with Pakistan.

"We bowled and fielded well but couldn't quite pull through," Porterfield said. "We are learning every game and hopefully we can improve a bit more tomorrow."



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