The in-form Kevin Pietersen celebrated the birth of his first child in great style. He lead England into the finals of the T20 World Cup with a typically aggressive 42 not out, as his side chased down a modest target of 129 set by Sri Lanka, who batted first after Kumar Sangakkara called correctly in the first semi-final.
It was disappointing overall batting effort from the Lankans, but for a fighting 58 from Angelo Mathews. However, against a rampant England batting order it was far from enough. Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb got their team off to a whirlwind start, blast 68 for the opening wicket in eight overs. Pietersen then carried forward the momentum and finished the game off in a hurry with his 26-ball knock.
Before Pietersen’s bravado though it were the bowlers who set up with the win for the Englishmen with a controlled yet penetrative effort. The seamers as well the pacers were equally impressive and never ever allowed the Lankans to get away.
Things began disastrously as Ryan Sidebottom forced the totally out of sorts Sanath Jayasuriya to nick a well-pitched outswinger to a gleeful Paul Collingwood in the slips. A restless Tillakaratne Dilshan, also out of form, tehn perished trying to hit out against Tim Bresnan, but only managing to loop the ball high up in the air.
Lanka had hardly snailed past 20 when their big hope Mahela Jayawardene was undone by Stuart Broad, beaten for pace and caught behind the wickets.
Kumar Sangakkara had already arrived at the crease, but the pressure was immense even for the level-headed Lankan captain. His side was down in the dumps at 38 for the loss of their top three batsmen at the end of the Powerplay overs.
With the introduction of spin, Sangakkara saw an opening to relieve the pressure. However, very soon England were celebrating once again as Sangakkara, in an effort to loft Graeme Swann, ended up gifting a dolly at mid-off, which was accepted by Pietersen.
Amidst the carnage, only Mathews kept a still head and guided Lanka to a score in the region of respectability. Known for his big shots, he was prepared to rotate the strike and, only occasionally hit out, emphasizing his maturity as a cricketer. Even when he played the lofted shot, he ensured it was with a straight bat, like the six he took off Swann’s bowling.
If Lanka thought they had a slight opening to get away, England ensured the reverse happened. Their pacers resorted to the use of the slow bouncer smartly, and everyone, including Mathews, struggled. And, soon the wickets started falling again. Broad ended Chamara Kapugedera’s frustration out in the middle by getting him to mistime one.
A 17-run over by Bresnan, including three wides, helped Lanka cross 120, and also gave them some momentum going into the break. However, it wasn’t to last for long.
After a couple of quiet overs delivered by the spinning combo of Dilshan and Ajantha Mendis, England’s openers went on the attack. Kieswetter did not allow Suraj Randiv to settle, slogging him for successive boundaries in an over, and later slammed Mathews for a maximum on the off side.
His partner Michael Lumb, meanwhile, was lucky to get off to a start. He should have been back in the pavilion early on when following a mix-up, which left him stranded midway down the pitch, but a nervy Mendis couldn’t gather a simple throw.
Soon, he was dropped by a diving Nuwan Kulasekera at mid-off and even the normally brilliant Jayawardene sent a wayward throw when a simple, well-directed one would have had the batsmen well short of the ground.
Lanka did manage to dismiss both, but by then the game was out of their grasps. Both the openers had made merry and blasted Jayasuriya for a six each befor Lasith Malinga’s deadly yorker knocked over Kieswetter.
Lumb threw his wicket away for 33, moving across the stumps and trying to hit Thissara Perera against the line. Collingwood perished in a hurry to finish things, but daddy Pietersen made sure England cruised to their first ICC final in six years.
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