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Tournaments St George's Park - Australia vs Sri Lanka - Lee blasts Oz into Cup final
Australia vs Sri Lanka - Lee blasts Oz into Cup final
Neale Emslie

Paceman Brett Lee blasted Australia into the ICC Cricket World Cup final witha lethal opening spell as the world champions swept past Sri Lanka in arain-interrupted semi-final at St George’s Park on Tuesday, March 18, 2003.

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The holders, who also won the tournament in 1987, shrugged off anotherbelow-par batting performance which saw them total 212 for seven in 50 overs torestrict the Sri Lankans to 123 for seven off 38.1 overs when rain stopped playat 5pm.

When play was officially called off an hour later, Australia were declaredthe winners on the Duckworth-Lewis system, with Sri Lanka 49 runs short of thetarget of 172 they required to win at that stage of the match.

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While the bowlers were superb, Australia also owed a massive debt ofgratitude to Andrew Symonds who played an innings of immense stature to hold histeam together with 91 not out.

Given the pressure induced by a semi-final, the knock was probably even morevaluable than the block-busting 143 not out off 125 balls he produced inJohannesburg against Pakistan in a first round clash.

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Australia will now meet the winners of the India-Kenya semi-final, to beplayed in Durban tomorrow, in Sunday’s final at the Wanderers inJohannesburg.

Like New Zealand seven days before them, the Sri Lankans wasted a goldenopportunity to knock the Aussies off their perch, but their batsmen had noanswer to the pace and fire of Lee as he ripped into the top-order in an openingspell of 6-0-30-3.

The Aussie fighting spirit was encapsulated in two balls in Lee’s secondover. Off the fifth delivery, he watched Brad Hogg put down a catch at coverpoint from Marvan Atapattu, who looked keen to take the fight to the Aussieattack.

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Undeterred by that lapse, Lee charged in and with a delivery of 160km he sentthe ball crashing through the Sri Lankan opener’s defence to make a mess of hiswickets.

It made Hogg a very relieved young man and sent a message to the Lankans thatthis game would not be lost without a fight. In the end, it was won in a canterand the rain only hastened the inevitable.

Later there was another example of the Aussie competitiveness. Off Lee’sfinal delivery of his first spell, Matthew Hayden just failed to hold on to anattempted cut at deep backward point from Aravinda de Silva.

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At this stage the veteran Sri Lankan, playing in his final World Cup, lookedthe only player capable of taking his team to victory, but an over later he wasalso back in the hut.

A risky single by Kumar Sangakkara saw bowler Andy Bichel effecting a superbpiece of fielding to hit the stumps from short mid-wicket with De Silva wellshort of his ground.

Although the TV umpire was called on, De Silva knew the result and hisdespairing look as he realised he was short of the crease said it all for theSri Lankans.

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It was another piece of Bichel magic at the ground which has seen him attractworldwide attention during this World Cup after match-winning efforts againstEngland (7/20 and 34 not out) and New Zealand (64 and 1/15).

At the other end, Glenn McGrath, bowling with his usual savvy, trappedpotential match-winner Sanath Jayasuriya into lifting a ball to backward squareleg and Brad Hogg’s two wickets left the Lankans at 76 for seven and with norealistic prospect of winning.

Australia’s batting, after an exhilarating start by Adam Gilchrist andMatthew Hayden, was again below par and without the efforts of Symonds, DarrenLehmann (36) and Bichel, a late flurry of 19 not out, they would have been inserious trouble.

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Jayasuriya handled his bowlers expertly in shackling the Aussie batsmen, withChaminda Vaas again playing a leading role. The left-arm seamer claimed threefor 34, while the Lankan skipper and De Silva each took two wickets.

Symonds handled a tough situation with wonderful composure. On 33, hesurvived a stumping chance when Sangakkara failed to cleanly gather a ball fromJayasuriya and that was to prove a crucial miss as the big Aussie hammered sevenfours and a six off 118 balls.

Eastern Province Herald
March 19, 2003.

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