Jayawardene Century Gives Sri Lanka Upper Hand

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene struck a magnificent unbeaten century to lead his side to a daunting total of 289 for five in their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Sabina Park on Tuesday. The 1996 World Cup winners recovered after losing their top batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya, in the third over, with a knock of 73 from Upul Tharanga. It will take some overhauling by the Kiwis against a strong Sri Lankan bowling attack. The winner here will play the victor of Wednesday's second semi-final between Australia and South Africa in St Lucia. The final is on Saturday in Bridgetown, Barbados. Sri Lanka put on 102 runs during the last 10 overs and Jayawardene's 115 not out included 10 fours and three sixes from 109 balls faced after a slow start in which he took 48 balls to score a boundary. The crowd was well below capacity but they were treated to a true captain's innings from Jayawardene who made his first World Cup century in his 23rd game in the competition. The travelling Sri Lankan supporters had an early disappointment when Jayasuriya, his country's most prolific run scorer, was bowled by James Franklin for one as he tried to tuck a straight, full-length ball through midwicket. Left-armer Franklin, although not getting much swing, bowled a lively opening spell and claimed his second victim when wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara dollied a simple catch to New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming at mid-on with the score at 67. MAJOR PARTNERSHIP Tharanga and a cautious Jayawardene then put on 44 and threatened a major partnership before spinner Daniel Vettori bowled a sweeping Tharanga around his legs. Chamara Silva looked well settled in his partnership with his captain, though, and was unfortunate to be given out lbw off a mis-firing Shane Bond for 21 when television replays suggested he had got bat on ball before it hit the pads. Tillakaratne Dilshan joined Jayawardene at a crucial stage of the game with Sri Lanka 152 for four in the 35th over and the pair stepped up the pace putting on an 81-run partnership in 64 deliveries. Jacob Oram then got rid off Dilshan with another harsh lbw decision, the ball looking to be heading well down the leg side. Jayawardene, who had been dropped by Bond on 70, then took complete charge, showing his class with two superbly timed and placed boundaries from late cuts off Franklin in the 47th over. He completed his century with another four dissecting third-man and deep backward point. © Reuters 2007