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DateLine Sunday, 22 April 2007

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Sri Lanka look to inspiration of 1996 win in semi final against Kiwis

CRICKET: April 21, 2007 - Sri Lanka are drawing inspiration from their 1996 World Cup victory ahead of their match-up with New Zealand in the next week's semi-finals.

Sri Lanka stunned India in a group game in 1996, beating them again in the semi-final before going on to lift the trophy.

Romesh Kaluwitharana, the former wicketkeeper-batsman who played in 1996, said winning against India in the group game was a huge morale booster when they met again in Calcutta.

"No one in India gave us a chance", Kaluwitharana recalled. "I see similarities here. We have beaten New Zealand quite comprehensively and that should give the boys a load of confidence for the semi-final."

The explosive opener, who partnered Sanath Jayasuriya in inventing pinch hitting in the 1996 World Cup, said that Kiwi hit man Shane Bond's pace should not worry the Sri Lankan batsmen too much in Jamaica.

"Our batsmen love the ball coming onto the bat as they are free-flowing stroke makers".

Kumara Dharmasena, a former off-spinner and another member of the 1996 champion outfit, said the Sri Lankans should take a lot of heart from their Super Eights win against New Zealand. "We were all set and brimming with confidence when we won the first round game against India and then met them in the semi-final," Dharmasena said, echoing his team-mate Kaluwitharana's sentiments. "Our bowling came out on top against all opposition in the Super Eight games.

This should give the Kiwis more than a few jitters. Our bowlers never allowed New Zealand to break free," Dharmasena, now an umpire, said.

The Kiwis mustered a modest 219 before the Sri Lankans romped home by six wickets.

Both Kaluwitharana and Dharmasena agreed that although the 1996 side's batting line-up looked stronger, the 2007 team's superior bowling could take them to a second World Cup win.

Sri Lanka will play New Zealand in Jamaica next Tuesday in the first semi-final.

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