Sri Lanka are through to the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy after defeating Australia by 20 runs in the final Group A fixture at the Oval today.
Sri Lanka, who successfully defended their 253 for 8 by restricting the winless Australians to 233 all out, will next take on in-form India in the last four in Cardiff on Thursday. England will face South Africa for a place in the final at the Oval a day earlier.
Veteran batsman Mahela Jaywardene led the way during the Sri Lanka innings, becoming only the eighth player to pass 11,000 One-Day International runs during his unbeaten knock of 84.
Australia needed to reach their 254-run target in 29.1 overs to improve their net run-rate significantly enough to leapfrog Sri Lanka and New Zealand into second place in the group.
That outside hope was quashed after losing four early wickets, although last-wicket pair Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty did threaten to eliminate Sri Lanka with a 40-run partnership before Tillakaratne Dilshan took the match-clinching wicket.
Sri Lanka went into the match knowing only a win would keep their tournament alive and once again they had stalwart Jayawardene to thank as he held an otherwise indifferent batting innings together.
The 36-year-old hit 11 boundaries and was ably supported by Lahiru Thirimane, who made a useful 57.Mitchell Johnson, overlooked for the upcoming Ashes tour, proved a point to the Australia selectors with 3-48 from his 10 overs and George Bailey’s men reached the halfway stage needing to bat at above eight runs an over in order to progress.
With David Warner on the balcony and not in the middle, the onus was on Shane Watson to provide the early fireworks, however he made just five before falling to Nuwan Kulasekara in the second over.
Glenn Maxwell, promoted to No 3 in the order, put Australia above the rate with an eye-catching 32 off just 20 balls, however the lacklustre dismissal of Bailey, who was caught short by Kulasekara’s brilliant throw, left the men in yellow in big trouble on 69-4.
A first group stage elimination since 2000 was confirmed in the 30th over with Australia eight wickets down and a Sri Lanka victory looked inevitable when last man Doherty joined McKay with 62 runs still required.
New Zealand fans could have been forgiven for turning off their TVs at this stage, however a career-best knock from McKay and sensible play from Doherty edged Australia close.
But, with the Sri Lanka supporters beginning to fret, Dilshan stepped up and produced a stunning one-handed return catch to book Sri Lanka’s place in the last four. (Sky)