| Andy Blignaut, who took three for 33, against Sri Lanka in Sharjah Monday. ( AFP)
Sharjah: Zimbabwe produced a disciplined all-round performance to beat Sri Lanka by four wickets and reach the final of the Sharjah Cup on Monday.
Zimbabwe, with two wins out of three matches will take on Pakistan in the final on Thursday. Unbeaten Pakistan have already booked their place in the final, reducing their Tuesday match against Kenya to a formality.
Zimbabwe, spearheaded by skipper Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut who shared six wickets, bowled out the World Cup semi-finalists for a paltry 193 and then, riding on a solid innings from Grant Flower (61 not out), achieved the target in 48.4 overs.
They lost Craig Wishart (14) early, but Douglas Marrilier (32) and Gavin Rennie (26) stabilised the innings with cool-headed batting.
After their exit, Flower took over. The experienced batsman, in the company of Tatenda Taibu, prospered in a 55-run stand to take the score to 158.
Sri Lanka threatened to halt a Zimbabwe cruise by taking three wickets in quick succession with the addition of only nine runs.
Taibu (31) fell to Kumar Dharmasena while off spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi quickly got rid of Sean Ervine and Dion Ebrahim to reduce Zimababwe to 167 for six.
Man-of-the-Match Flower held firm, however, and guided his team to victory.
Streak, who hit the winning runs, remained unbeaten on 19.
| Zimbabwe players celebrate the fall of yet another Sri Lankan wicket Monday. (Reuters)
In their innings Sri Lanka never recovered after losing Sanath Jaysuriya to the second ball. The Sri Lankan skipper, playing his 300th match, edged an incoming delivery from Heath Streak for a duck.
With Zimbabwe’s bowlers maintaining a tight line and length, the Sri Lankan batsmen simply struggled to pace their innings despite making good starts. Hashan Tillekeratne, playing in his 200th match, was the top scorer with 31.
Sri Lanka needed two decent partnerships to build their stuttering innings. After the fall of Jayasuriya, Avishka Gunawardene (24) and Maravan Atapattu (29) put on 51 runs for the second wicket and then Kumar Sangakkara (25) and Tillekeratne featured in a 48-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Sri Lanka expected another big contribution from Sangakkara, who made unbeaten scores of 100 and 103 in the previous two innings.
But the left-handed batsman was caught by Flower trying to step up the scoring. Sri Lanka, at one stage, took 180 balls to score a boundary, which amply reflected how effectively Zimbabwe bowlers dictated the pace of the innings.
Thanks to Lokuarachchi (28) and a brisk 25-run partnership between last pairing of Buddhika Fernando (14 not out) and Prabhat Nissanka, Sri Lanka managed to reach a score they could defend.
Streak, who did the early damage returned with a haul of three for 36 while Blignaut who rocked the lower order ended with three for 33.