Openers Set Batting Mark as Sri Lanka Reaches Cup Quarterfinals

Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga shared a record opening stand of 282 at the Cricket World Cup as Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe to reach the quarterfinals.

Dilshan top scored with 144 and then took four wickets for four runs yesterday to guide his team to a 139-run victory at Pallekele stadium in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Together with fellow opener Tharanga, who made 133, Dilshan eclipsed the previous highest opening-wicket World Cup stand of 194 by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar and Wajahatullah Wasti in 1999. It was also the first time at cricket’s world championship that both openers scored a century as Sri Lanka racked up 327-6.

“This is the best match of my career,” Dilshan said after being presented with the man-of-the-match award. “Everyone’s performing well, we are in a good position.”

Sri Lanka, seeking its second World Cup title after winning the 1996 tournament, leads Group A with seven points and is guaranteed a place in the final eight. The top four teams of each of the two seven-team groups move to the quarterfinals after a round robin.

The top eight nations in the International Cricket Council’s one-day rankings currently occupy the quarterfinal spots. Group winners will face the fourth-ranked team from the other pool in the last eight, with the second and third-place teams facing each other.

New Zealand and Pakistan are on six points through four games, with defending champion Australia in Group A’s fourth and last qualifying spot on five points from three matches. Zimbabwe and Canada have two points after four matches.

Boundary Blitz

Dilshan, 34, smashed one six and 16 fours in his 131-ball innings yesterday, while left-hander Tharanga, 26, struck 17 boundaries during his 141-ball stay at the crease. His dismissal left the openers only four runs short of the highest ever first-wicket stand in one-day internationals, which Tharanga set with Sanath Jayasuriya against England in 2006.

Zimbabwe’s openers guided their team to 116-0 in reply before the African team slumped to 188 all out in 39 overs. Brendan Taylor top scored with 80 runs off 72 balls. Dilshan was denied a hat trick with the ball when Mahela Jayawardene spilled a catch at slip.

“Dilshan has been an important player for us over the last 10 years,” Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said at the presentation ceremony. “Today he had that magic touch with bat, ball and on the field.”

Sri Lanka faces New Zealand on March 18 in its last group match. In today’s Group B matches, Ireland faces West Indies in Mohali, India, and Bangladesh hosts England in Chittagong.

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