Cricket fever has gripped Pakistan ahead of the World Cup semi-final against India.
|Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan acknowledges the crowd after his last performance on home soil [AFP]|
Co-hosts Sri Lanka held their nerve to advance to the final of the Cricket World Cup with a five-wicket victory over a New Zealand in Colombo on Tuesday.
New Zealand struggled to put 217 on the board in the first semifinal and Sri Lanka overhauled the modest total with a blistering 73 from opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and 54 from captain Kumar Sangakkara, reaching 220-5 in 47.5 overs.
Despite losing four wickets for 25 runs as the Black Caps fought back, Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews guided the co-hosts home to ensure an all-Asian final on Saturday in Mumbai against either India or Pakistan, who play tomorrow.
New Zealand, who defeated South Africa in the quarterfinals, have now reached the Cricket World Cup semifinals six times without advancing further.
Earlier Muttiah Muralitheran took a wicket with his last ball on Sri Lankan soil and was given a roaring send-off by the partisan crowd.
Veteran Muralitharan’s international career was extended by one more game after the off-spinner, who will retire after the tournament, marked his last appearance in Sri Lanka with two wickets.
In keeping with his dramatic career, the 38-year-old record-setting bowler took a wicket off the last ball when he had top scorer Scott Styris (57) lbw to send the 38,000-crowd at the R. Premadasa stadium into wild celebrations.
New Zealand, playing in their sixth semifinal, lost their last seven wickets for just 56 runs.
“Playing your last match in your country is emotional. When I played my last Test and took eight wickets it was very emotional,” said Muralitharan of his last Test against India in 2010 where he also took a wicket off his last ball.
New Zealand to be succumbing like England did during their 10-wicket quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, but they staged a brave rearguard action.
|Sri Lanka v NZ scorecard|
New Zealand innings
Sri Lanka innings
It was 34-year-old Dilshan who was once again in rampaging mood, taking the co-hosts to 40 by the eighth over in the company of Upul Tharanga who fell after scoring a 31-ball 30 with four boundaries and a six.
Dilshan then found an equally aggressive and in-form partner in captain Sangakkara as they added 120 for the second wicket, before Dilshan played straight into the hands of Jesse Ryder off Tim Southee.
Dilshan hit 10 boundaries and a six during his 93-ball knock.
Sri Lanka then lost Mahela Jayawardene (one) and Sangakkara in the space of eight runs and then Chamara Silva (13) before the team held their nerve.
Dilshan also became the top run-getter of the tournament with 467.
It was Ajantha Mendis (3-35) and Lasith Malinga (3-55), along with Muralitharan (2-42), who kept New Zealand under control after Daniel Vettori won the toss and opted to bat.
Scott Styris, who top scored with 57, added 77 for the fourth wicket with Ross Taylor (36) but the Sri Lankan bowlers never allowed them to run away with a big total, dismissing the Kiwis in 48.5 overs.
Styris and Kane Williamson (22) added 42 in the batting powerplay but New Zealand lost their last seven wickets too quickly.
Sri Lanka once again dismissed hard-hitting Brendon McCullum through a spinner when left-armer Rangana Herath bowled him in the eighth over for 13.
Martin Guptill (39) and Jesse Ryder (19) took the total to 69 before Muralitharan had the big left-hander caught off a quickish delivery.
Soon it became 84-3 when Malinga bowled Guptill with a ferocious yorker after the opener had hit three boundaries off 65 balls. Styris hit five boundaries during his 77-ball knock.
Earlier more than 2,000 police and commandos threw a security blanket around Mohali ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final between India and Pakistan, the pair’s first meeting on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.