England brush Sri Lanka aside
England stormed into the final of the ICC World Twenty20 with a crushing seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia.
A potentially tight semi-final tussle never came to pass after England restricted their opponents to 128 for six - and then knocked off that inadequate total with four overs to spare.
Sri Lanka, who won the toss, paid for losing early wickets and left England with breathing space to pace what proved an easy chase on a sluggish surface.
Paul Collingwood’s team are therefore only the fifth from their country to reach an International Cricket Council tournament final, and will have their chance to claim a piece of history at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Sunday by becoming the first to win the silverware for England in 35 years of trying.
Pakistan or, more enticingly, Australia will earn the right to face them there when they meet in tomorrow’s second semi-final at this venue.
England had clever game-plans for each batsman, and most worked to a tee as only Angelo Mathews, who top-scored with 58, cut any ice for Sri Lanka.
Even the powerful Mathews struggled to reach, let alone clear, the ropes - with only three fours and one six in his 40-ball fifty.
But he stayed put to keep Sri Lanka’s faint hopes alive of reaching a second successive final in this competition, eventually cashing in when Tim Bresnan - so impressive over the past two weeks - proved a relative weak link, leaking 17 runs in his final over to concede 41 in all.
Although Bresnan’s first delivery of the match - a leg-stump half-volley - was routinely dispatched for four by Mahela Jayawardene, England could scarcely have got off to a better start.
Collingwood profited personally for posting himself at second slip when he pocketed a Sanath Jayasuriya edge off Ryan Sidebottom’s first ball.
Tillakaratne Dilshan mis-hooked Bresnan to be well caught by Luke Wright, running in and diving forward at deep square-leg; Stuart Broad then emulated Sidebottom by striking with his first ball, for the big wicket of Sri Lanka lynchpin Jayawardene.
Broad has espoused the virtue of aiming to hit the top of off stump, and that no-nonsense approach did the trick as a little extra bounce had Jayawardene edging behind.
Sri Lanka then found themselves 47 for the loss of their top four in the 10th over, Kumar Sangakkara getting too much on a chip towards long-off off Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen making no mistake with a running catch.
The next five overs went Sri Lanka’s way, but not damagingly so as Mathews and fellow big-hitter Chamara Kapugedera were forced to play more conservatively than is their nature.
Mathews might have been run out for 18, with the score on 58 for four, by a better throw from Michael Lumb as the batsman scampered a tight two into the off-side deep.
With the spin overs gone, Broad and Sidebottom’s tactics were slow bouncers and clever lines, which mostly did the trick, despite the occasional wide or no-ball call, as Mathews and Kapugedera found it hard to adapt to altered timing requirements.
Kapugedera fell to a back-foot drive at Broad which did not beat mid-off, but Mathews kept going almost till the end, eventually run out trying for his 10th two.
If Sri Lanka dared to hope they had salvaged a total they could defend, they did not do so for long as Craig Kieswetter and Lumb racked up an opening stand of 68 in under nine overs.
Kieswetter, in particular, succeeded where Sri Lanka had failed, striking powerfully to and beyond the boundaries until Lasith Malinga interrupted him in full flow with a swinging yorker.
Lumb had luck on his side. He should have been run out on 11, but Ajantha Mendis dropped the ball with the left-handed opener stranded mid-pitch following a mix-up with Kieswetter, and substitute fielder Nuwan Kulasekara could not hold on to a tough chance at long-off when Lumb had made 23.
He made 10 more before aiming adventurously across the line and losing his middle stump to Thissara Perera.
Paul Collingwood perished when he skied a leading edge off Perera, but Pietersen - back in harness after his Atlantic dash to see the birth of his first child - smashed an unbeaten 42 to complete a straightforward task with six and four from successive balls off Malinga.