In a matter of hours, Sri Lanka out of World Cup contention

DURHAM, England (AP) — Dimuth Karunaratne and his Sri Lanka squad were still in contention at the Cricket World Cup when they practiced on the eve of their group game against West Indies.

They were out of contention before the sun set Sunday, when England beat India at Edgbaston.

It was a payback of sorts from the tournament hosts. The Lasith Malinga-inspired upset win over England at Leeds on June 21 revived Sri Lanka’s prospects of reaching the semifinals, and also opened the door for Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Until then, it appeared the top four of Australia, India, New Zealand and England were destined for the semifinals. That loss dented England’s chances, and a subsequent loss to Australia put the hosts under even more pressure.

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Going into the last week of the group stage, only Australia is assured of a place in the last four, with seven wins and 14 points from eight games. India and New Zealand are on 11 points and England is back in fourth spot on 10. Pakistan (9) and Bangladesh (7) are still in the hunt, but Sri Lanka (6) can’t make it — even if it wins its last two games against West Indies and India to finish on 10 points and England loses its last game group to New Zealand.

The tiebreaker if teams finish equal on points is wins — and England would have more in the W column because Sri Lanka picked up two points from washouts.

“We can’t control the other games,” Karunaratne said at his pre-game news conference Sunday, when he was still confident Sri Lanka was in the running for a top-four finish. “We have the skill to compete with all the teams but we performed only in patches — our batting didn’t bat as a unit. That’s why we are in this position having to depend on other teams for a semifinal place.”

Sri Lanka was trounced in its opening game against New Zealand, beat Afghanistan and then had washouts against Pakistan and Bangladesh. A loss to Australia had them on the verge of an exit until the win over England shook up the whole competition. With the loss here to South Africa last Friday, Sri Lanka lost control of its tournament destiny.

The West Indies slumped out of contention after a loss to India three days ago, but coach Floyd Reifer said it wouldn’t influence their game plan against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street. He said the future starts Monday for his team.

“Yes, we are out of the World Cup, but there is still a lot of cricket to play after the World Cup,” Reifer said. “It’s important for us to find the winning ways and find the winning formula going forward.

“We want to create that winning culture. It has to start from somewhere. The guys are still up for it. We’re good to go.”

The West Indies are aiming to regain the confidence they started the tournament with, when its pace quartet bounced out Pakistan for 105 in an opening win and then had defending champion Australia in strife at 38-4 and 79-5. They lost a tight one to the Australians, then were on top against South Africa before that game got washed out.

Those performances prompted talk of a West Indies revival, harking back to an era when big fast bowlers were at the forefront of the great Caribbean teams.

But four losses followed — including the five-run loss to New Zealand when Carlos Brathwaite was caught on the boundary trying to hit a six for victory.

“We had a long conversation in the dressing room — did a lot of soul-searching,” Reifer said. “It is important for us and important for the fans in the Caribbean as well, for us to put up the performances, even at the back end of the World Cup.”

Reifer said his team “didn’t seize the key moments” in some games.

“The players are not comfortable with their performances, so we have a lot to play for. It is important that we keep building what we did well here as well in the World Cup because we did some things well.”

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