London: Sri Lanka will play India in the Champion Trophy semi-finals after ousting defending champion Australia by 20 runs and overtaking New Zealand in the group standings on Monday.
Sri Lanka posted 253-8 on a turning pitch at The Oval due to Mahela Jayawardene's 84 from 81 deliveries and Lahiru Thirimanne's 57.
That meant Australia needed to eclipse the target in 29.1 overs to advance, a prospect that always seemed unlikely and proved increasingly so when they lost four wickets inside the opening nine overs. However, the Australian middle order and tail fought a thrilling rearguard action to finish on 233 from 42.3 overs.
While the Sri Lankans missed a chance to edge England to win Group A, the victory delivered a double knockout in eliminating both finalists from the previous Champions Trophy in 2009, Australia and New Zealand. The Kiwis would have advanced with a Sri Lanka loss. Instead, Sri Lanka plays on Thursday in the second semi-final in Cardiff, Wales. England meets South Africa a day earlier at The Oval.
The run rate for Australia initially wasn't a problem through big-hitting Glenn Maxwell's 32 from 20 balls, but it fell away as the wickets tumbled. Adam Voges made 49, while wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade contributed 31 from 23 deliveries. A last-wicket stand of 41 between Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty, who notched career-best ODI scores of 30 and 15 not out respectively, took Australia much closer to victory than seemed likely.
Nuwan Kulasekara was the star in the field, claiming 3-42 with the ball, holding a good catch and executing a run out. Australia got off to a bad start when Shane Watson chopped the eighth ball of the innings, from Kulasekara, onto his stumps to send the largely Sri Lankan crowd into paroxysms of delight. Maxwell was promoted up the order and he was instrumental in ensuring Australia scored 27 in total from the fourth and fifth overs.
Two balls later, however, Kulasekara took his second wicket when Phillip Hughes tried to steer the ball to third man but succeeded only in directing it to wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara. He was caught for 13 with the total on 45. Australia's 50 came up off only 34 balls when Maxwell found the midwicket fence. But his cameo, which included five boundaries and a six, came to an end when he lost his leg stump to a full ball from Lasith Malinga to make it 59-3 in the seventh over.
Two overs later with 10 added to the total, captain George Bailey was caught dawdling to be run out at the non-striker's end by a direct hit by Kulasekara from short fine-leg. Australia slumped to 80-5 in the 13th over when Mitchell Marsh completely misread a slower ball from Angelo Mathews and was bowled.
Wade, James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson soon departed, but the last-wicket stand threatened to secure victory. Instead, Australia finished last in the group, with its only point coming from the no-result against New Zealand, and missed out on the semis for the first time since 2000.
Earlier, Jayawardene moved past 11,000 one-day international runs in hitting his 69th half-century after Australia won the toss and elected to field. Tillakaratne Dilshan (34) and Lahiru Thirimanne (57) put on a 72-run stand to form the foundation of Sri Lanka's innings. Jayawardene then struck 11 boundaries and received able support from Dinesh Chandimal's 31 from 32 balls.
Australia's bowling performance was largely disciplined. Doherty and Johnson were the pick of the seven bowlers used. Johnson found his rhythm to generate pace and capture 3-48, while Doherty was more frugal in taking 1-30.