Muttiah Muralitharan took a wicket with his final ball in One-Day International cricket in Sri Lanka before his side beat New Zealand by five wickets to reach their second World Cup final in a row.
They did so by dismissing New Zealand for 217 and then closing the semi-final in Colombo on 220 for five in 47.5 overs.
Set a modest target in front of a partisan home crowd, they made a strong start, Upul Tharanga hitting the third ball of the reply down the ground for six off Nathan McCullum. He dominated an opening stand with Tillakaratne Dilshan of 40 before he cut Tim Southee to point only to be superbly caught by a diving Jesse Ryder for 30.
Dilshan then added 120 for the second wicket with Kumar Sangakkara, both men reaching fluent half-centuries to give their side the platform from which they went on to win the match. Dilshan made 73 in 93 balls, hitting ten fours and a six while Sangakkara hit seven fours and one six in 79 balls.
However, they were forced to work hard for the win as the quick dismissals of Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene (1) and Sangakkara saw them lose three wickets for nine runs.
New Zealand, sensing an unlikely way back into the match, upped the pressure on Chamara Silva (13 in 25 balls) and Thilan Samaraweera (23 not out in 38) and struck when Southee bowled Silva.
However, the experience of Samaraweera and a nerveless display from Angelo Mathews (14 not out) saw the home side safely home with 13 balls to spare.
Batting with a runner having picked up a thigh injury earlier in the day, Mathews hit Southee for a six and then a four straight down the ground in the 47th over to all but win the match. The victory was confirmed when Samaraweera edged Andy McKay between slip and wicket-keeper.
Earlier, New Zealand collapsed from a position of 161 for three, losing their last seven wickets for 56 runs as Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis both returned three wickets.
Muralitharan, who is to retire from international cricket following the World Cup, returned two for 42, removing Ryder for 19 and finally Scott Styris for a well-made 57.
Styris held New Zealand's innings together, hitting five fours in 77 balls before he was trapped in front by the great man as Sri Lanka held New Zealand to a score less than that which they easily overcame to beat England on the same pitch in their quarter-final.
It was New Zealand who started the stronger, however, Brendon McCullum (13) and Martin Guptill (39) batting positively but no sooner had McCullum hit left-arm spinner Rangana Herath for six than he was out - bowled by Herath attempting a similar shot over midwicket.
Ryder was caught by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara and Guptill became the first of Malinga's victims when a trademark yorker burst through his defences to bowl him. Ross Taylor (36) then added 77 for the fourth wicket with Styris but his dismissal when he picked out Upul Tharanga at deep midwicket from one of the poorest balls Mendis bowled all day precipitated New Zealand's downfall.
Kane Williamson hit 22 in 16 balls during the batting Power Play before an ill-judged attempt to work Malinga to the leg side saw him trapped in front before Nathan McCullum (9), Jacob Oram (7), Tim Southee (0) and Andy McKay (0) offered little resistance to a ruthless Sri Lankan bowling attack, which finished off the innings in 48.5 overs.
Mendis returned three for 35, Malinga three for 55 and Muralitharan two for 42 to put New Zealand's bid to reach the final having made it to six World Cup semi-finals in jeopardy.
Sri Lanka then confirmed their place in a third World Cup final, following appearances in Lahore in 1996 and Barbados in 2007.
© Cricket World 2011
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