Flintoff sends England to semis.

Monday, September 20 2004

Andrew Flintoff went from 50 to 100 in only 20 balls as England marched into the ICC Semis.

The ICC's One Day Player of the year reached his Half century from 69 balls in the 42nd over as England's innings resumed on the second morning, but then powered his way to a century in the last over before being dismissed attempting his 4th six.

Earlier Sri Lanka had looked in control, as Marvan Atapattu surprised few by starting with 2 spinners in the seam-friendly conditions, and it was the lesser of those 2, Tillekeratne Dilshan, who made the breakthrough off only
the 9th ball of the morning, as he superbly got down to a straight drive from Flintoff and flicked it onto the stumps to leave Marcus Trescothick stranded and run out having added only 2 runs to his overnight unbeaten 64.

That wicket brought in the in-form Paul Collingwood, and the pair set about recovering the innings from 123-4. There was still time to go, but it was crucial to England's efforts that these 2 remained together for at least 10 overs.

To that effect, they were very cautious at first, and had only added 28 runs in the first 39 balls together as England entered the last 10 overs on 151-4.

With 6 overs still to be delivered by Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa, Sri Lanka could be very happy with their efforts so far, and although both batsmen were able to hit boundaries in the next 4 overs, the spinners were doing a superb job, and after 44 overs, the run rate was still only 3.93.

Flintoff was still there though, and although he'd brought up his half century off Jayasuriya, he then played out 3 dot balls to sit on 51 from 72 balls. What followed was carnage.

The pressure was first relieved by a Chandana ball turning down leg-side, beating keeper and batsman and racing away for 4 wides. This unsettled the bowler, and the 45th over started the carnage, as first Collingwood pulled him for four, and then Flintoff hit him over long-on for 6. More good running meant that the over yielded 22 runs.

Vaas was finally recalled, and Collingwood took most of the strike in the next 2 overs, off which a total of 16 came, but Flintoff's eye was in and 38 had come from 3 overs.

Vaas struck a big blow, as Collingwood aimed for a maximum, but a fine leap by Mahela Jayawardene plucked the ball out of the air before he landed inside the rope. The Durham man had scored 39 from 49 balls, and a 5th wicket stand of 94 from only 80 had set England to at least a defendable target.

The next 11 balls changed it from defendable to imposing, as Flintoff smashed Vaas to point for 4, then hit Zoysa over long-off and mid-wicket, before casually pushing a single off the last ball of the 49th over to keep strike.

18 runs from the 49th over, and then Vaas disappeared to fine leg for 4 more then wide of third man for a couple that brought up a century for Flintoff, then 4 more down to fine leg before finally getting his revenge as an inside edge clattered into the stumps.

The Lancashire all-rounder had gone from 51 to 104 off only 18 deliveries and although Alex Wharf was run out next ball, it was in all honesty irrelevant, as England had somehow made 251-7 from their overs - 78 runs coming from the final 6 overs as Flintoff once again showed that when in the mood, he is the most destructive batsman in World Cricket - in the process taking his figures for the 2004 summer to 493 runs in 7 knocks at an average of 98.60. Incredibly these runs have come off only 458 balls.

Sri Lanka were clearly shell-shocked by the blitz they'd just witnessed, and it got worse for them when they batted.

Darren Gough and Steve Harmison were right on the button when they opened up, conceding just 2 runs from the first 2 overs, and it wasn't before the Durham man made the breakthrough, Avishka Gunawardene having no answer to a beauty that moved away late and Geraint Jones taking a regulation catch.

In Harmison's next over, it got worse, the bounce did for Atapattu, and Jones took another catch - 15-2 in the 6th over and Saman Jayantha joined the veteran Sanath Jayasuriya (who had already seen a simple chance to Vikram Solanki dropped) in the middle.

The pair rebuilt, and eyes were on the Duckworth Lewis score - had the match gone to 20 overs, with 2 down, Sri Lanka would only need a score in the 80s, so they had a good chance if they could stick together.

After 6 overs of each of the openers, Michael Vaughan felt it was time for a change, and predictably he threw the ball to his talisman Flintoff. Even more predictably, Flintoff took a wicket in his first over as Jayasuriya took him on and Gough took a good catch at mid-off. 49-3 and Sri Lanka were really in trouble.

Kumar Sangakkara has shown himself the man to get them out of trouble in the past, but even he struggled against the ever-nagging Flintoff, and although runs came a bit more freely off Wharf (who conceded 11 from his first over) - they soon dried up as well, and after 5 overs were used up in scoring just 10, Jayantha felt he had to try to do something, but ideally for Sri Lanka, he had to do it without getting out. Another catch for Jones and another wicket for Flintoff, it was 74-4 after 19 overs - and although we still needed another over to make it an official game, there was no doubt who would be playing in the semi finals already.

Jayawardene came in, and amazingly there was almost a run out the first ball he was in, both batsmen ending up at one end as Solanki rushed an attempted direct hit, rather than throwing the ball to the stumps to try and run one of them out more easily.

It wasn't really to make much of a difference on this occasion, as rain was looming, and the match was over, but you can almost guarantee that the Australian's would make such slips pay.

Amongst the clouds, another bowling change by Vaughan provided an instant dividend, Ashley Giles taking a sharp return catch off Jayawardene, but that was almost it.

After 24 overs, with Sri Lanka 95-5, the rain returned, and didn't go away. Sri Lanka were well behind the Duckworth Lewis par score of 144, and therefore out of the competition.

England have a game against the World Champions to savour - but will need more than just 1 of the top 4 to make a good score in addition to the engine room of Flintoff and Collingwood if they're going to stand much of a chance of making the Final.

Yet again, Flintoff was awarded the Man of the Match - this is his 2nd award in 3 matches, but rather curiously the first time he's scored a century and got it!

Flintoff 104, Trescothick 66, Maharoof 1-19(10)
Harmison 2-21(6), Flintoff 2-21(5)

Posted by Marc