Winning margin surprises Sangakkara
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara thought England would have provided a sterner test following the co-hosts' astonishing 10-wicket victory in the World Cup quarter-finals in Colombo.
Openers Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan put on a masterclass as they both registered unbeaten centuries to easily overhaul England’s total of 229 for six and set up a last-four clash with New Zealand.
That was despite Sri Lanka's profligacy in the field, where Eoin Morgan was reprieved four times - including three drops - en route to a half-century from 55 balls before he was finally caught by Angelo Mathews, coming off the cover rope, off Lasith Malinga.
It mattered little in the grand scheme of things as Sri Lanka bowled a tight line and length to restrict their opponents' scoring opportunities.
Indeed, only Jonathan Trott, who became the tournament’s leading runscorer with 422 following a knock of 86 from 115 balls, could get to grips with an attack boasting three spinners.
Sangakkara thought his side’s victory echoed their triumph against England at Headingley five years ago when Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya both hit hundreds in an eight-wicket victory which sealed a 5-0 series success.
Asked if he believed Sri Lanka’s victory would be so comfortable, Sangakkara replied: “Not really. Losing the toss, it was really important that we got off to a great start with the ball and Dilshan did that for us with the new ball. Then he and Upul really got together and reminded us of Headingley a few years back.
"We’ve got to brush up on our fielding and a few other areas but I think the guys really fought hard and they had a lot of pride in the way they played, especially in the sun fielding first.
"All the bowlers hit the marks early on and they just kept up the pressure and made sure that whatever total we chased was a manageable one.
"It’s a fantastic crowd. They have been coming to all of our games and they have supported us right throughout, which is wonderful. All we are trying to do is make them proud and play the best cricket that we can.”
Despite the comfortable nature of their victory, Sangakkara still believes England are capable opponents for anyone on their day.
He said: “I think England are still a great side, actually one of the best balanced sides in the tournament. I don’t think it helped them that they have had a few injuries - James Anderson sitting on the bench, Michael Yardy going back - so it’s been a tough tournament for them.
“But they’re filled with top-quality players. They’ve done exceptionally well, and we were very wary of England and what they could do.”
Muttiah Muralitharan was a doubt before the game with a hamstring injury and he appeared in discomfort when bowling his final over, but Sangakkara is confident the veteran off-spinner, who will retire from all forms of international cricket at the end of the tournament, will feature against New Zealand.
Sangakkara said: “He’s pulled up a bit stiff. We’ve got a couple of days for him to recover so I’m sure he will be fit for the next game. If not we’ve got enough cover, the guys are pretty confident and I think everyone is looking to do well.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman is not placing too much stock on Sri Lanka’s 112-run victory over the Black Caps in the group stage, knowing that any complacency will be punished by a resurgent New Zealand team.
He added: "We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground, put our heads down and concentrate on really brushing up on our basics.
"I think it’s important to be confident, but also realistic. It’s a semi-final, it’s a one-off. Everyone has got the opportunity to do well. They will be very hungry to get into the finals, so are we.
“I thought with the opening partnership we had today, that really inspired the rest of the side. Everyone can’t shine every day - we’ve just got to make sure it’s a good team effort when the semi-finals come along."
Tharanga expressed his delight after the victory at the R Premadasa Stadium.
“I think it was a really good performance from me and Dilshan, so we are very happy,” he said.
“Definitely in games like this, the opening partnership is very important. We’ve got two double-hundred partnerships, which is very good, so we can hopefully continue in the semi-finals.”