|Murali”s four for 25 made sure that New Zealand were never really in the game [GALLO/GETTY]|
Muttiah Muralitharan helped Sri Lanka to a massive win over New Zealand in a Group A match at the cricket World Cup in Mumbai, as the co-hosts seek to put themselves in a better position for the quarter-finals.
Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan have all already booked their berths in the quarter-final stage of the tournament, but are jockeying for position within the group, which will determine who they meet in the next round.
In the last group game for both sides, New Zealand had no answer to Muralitharan’s off-spinning magic, as they collapsed to 153 all out in just 35 overs, chasing Sri Lanka’s 265/9.
Muralitharan took four for 25 in eight overs, and said he was confident that an injury he picked up while diving to complete a run during Sri Lanka”s innings will not stop him fro participating in next week”s quarter-finals.
“It’s not a big tear in the hamstring and there was just a little bit of discomfort,” he said after the game at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, which will also stage the April 2 final.
“I’m bowling well and the dew factor helped me. I am used to the conditions having played a lot of day-night games in England. I wanted to bowl slower so the ball skids off the surface.”
The Kiwis’ innings never really got going, with in-form acting captain Ross Taylor top-scoring with 33.
Earlier in the day, Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara (111) and Mahela Jayawardene (66) put on 145 for the third wicket to rescue their side from a precarious 19-2.
The game saw an angry standoff during the Sri Lankan innings when umpires struck down what appeared to be a cleanly taken catch by Nathan McCullum off his own bowling.
Amish Saheba, the television umpire, ruled out the catch, resulting in a furious McCullum and Taylor angrily protesting the decision with on-field umpire Asad Rauf.
Sri Lanka now move to the top of Group A, level with Australia on nine points but ahead on run-rate. Either Australia or Pakistan, who meet in Colombo on Saturday, will top the final standings.
Group B is a different story, with only the powerful South Africans so far assured of their last eight spot and Bangladesh, West Indies, England and India sweating over the three remaining places.
Ireland beat Netherlands
In the day’s earlier match, a clash of the minnows between Ireland and the Netherlands, the Irish prevailed in a high-scoring encounter.
The Irish overhauled the Dutch side’s 306 all out with more than an over, and six wickets, to spare, making them this World Cup’s most successful non-Test-playing side.
“It was great to chase 300 for the second time in the tournament, but we shouldn’t have been chasing that,” skipper William Porterfield said after the win at Kolkata”s Eden Gardens.
“We let ourselves down in the first half, but we have bowled and fielded well throughout the tournament and it was nice to see the batters coming to the party.”
Paul Stirling (101 off 72 balls) and Porterfeld (68) put on 177 for the first wicket, a record for their country in one day internationals.
Dutch skipper Peter Borren said his side could have defended the total with a better bowling and fielding performance.
“We batted pretty well to get more than 300 and I think our total was quite defendable. We did not show discipline in bowling and dropped some catches, so we are pretty disappointed. We probably should have won the game,” said Borren.
“Fielding has been an area of concern for us in the last couple of years. Ireland saved 20-25 runs with their fielding and we did just the opposite, giving away runs that we could have saved.”