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Zimbabwe floor Sri Lanka on way to final against India

by Kuldip Lal for AFP

SHARJAH - Zimbabwe leg-spinner Paul Strang knocked World Cup holders Sri Lanka out of the Champions Trophy with a four-wicket haul in Sharjah on Tuesday.

The Sri Lankans were bowled out for 235 in reply to Zimbabwe's 259 for seven, bowing out of the three-nation event with their fourth successive defeat.

Sri Lanka, reduced to 103 for six at half-way, were saved total humiliation by Hashan Tillekeratne (72 not out) and Kumara Dharmasena (39) who put on 93 for the seventh wicket.

Chaminda Vaas hit 19 off nine balls at the end but Zimbabwe wrapped up the innings with seven balls to spare.

Zimbabwe's 24-run win lifted them into Friday's final against unbeaten India and gives them their first chance of a one-day title featuring Test-playing nations.

The two finalists will also clash on Wednesday in an inconsequential last match of the preliminary league.

Zimbabwe, who beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the first round, had an even easier outing against the beleaguered world champions in the return.

Neil Johnson and Andy Flower hammered a record 148 for the fourth wicket as Zimbabwe recorded the highest total by any side in the tournament so far. Johnson made 72 and Flower 95 after Sri Lanka had Zimbabwe at 24 for three in the seventh over.

The stand was Zimbabwe's best for the fourth wicket, surpassing the 143 by Andy Flower and his brother Grant against Pakistan last year.

Paceman Heath Streak then struck early to remove openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana by the sixth over before Strang took over.

The leg-spinner, who came on in the 17th over, dismissed Marvan Atapattu and skipper Arjuna Ranatunga with his second and fifth deliveries.

He then trapped Roshan Mahanama leg-before in his fourth over and took care of danger man Aravinda De Silva in the fifth.

Ranatunga admitted his team had not suffered such humiliation since 1996, the year they won the World Cup.

``I have never seen our batsmen fail four times in a row,'' he said. ``There was nothing we could do to halt the slide.

``There is a lesson to be learnt from this. You cannot afford to take any team lightly these days.''

Ranatunga said he hoped to iron out the faults before the triangular one-day series against England and hosts Australia early next year, which precedes the World Cup in May.

``Our focus is the World Cup, and we are looking to get into the groove during the tour of Australia,'' the Sri Lankan captain said.

Zimbabwe skipper Alistair Campbell said: ``We have proved we are no longer easy meat.

``The boys are pretty keyed up to defeat India both on Wednesday and in the final.''

Earlier Sri Lanka had made a good start in a game they had to win by a wide margin to keep their chances alive of making the final.

Seamer Pramodaya Wickremasinghe removed openers Alistair Campbell and Grant Flower by the sixth over, while Chaminda Vaas dismissed Murray Goodwin in the seventh.

The Sri Lankans, however, had to wait till the 38th over for their next success as Johnson and Andy Flower took control on the easy-paced wicket.

Wickremasinghe finished with three for 28, while Vaas took two for 48. But the Zimbabweans hammered the spinners, with Kumara Dharmasena going for 41, Tilan Samaraweera for 46 and Jayasuriya 59.

Source: AFP
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