Sri Lanka repulsed a gallant challenge from Ireland at Lord's on Sunday to win their World Twenty20 Super Eights match by nine runs.
Ireland, the only non-Test-playing nation still in the tournament, restricted the 1996 World one-day champions to 144 for nine after Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat. Then, in reply, they were 87 for one before Sri Lanka's potent bowling trio of Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis took control.
Ireland skipper William Porterfield (31) and Niall O'Brien (31) provided the minnows a good start, knitting together 59 runs for the first wicket, but the slow run-rate dented their chances heavily and the middle-order was left with a daunting task.
Mystery spinner Mendis (2-22) dismissed the O'Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, in the 15th over in the space of three deliveries, and Malinga (2-19) bowled Trent Johnston and Andre Botha with successive yorkers, leaving Ireland needing needed 18 from the final over.
John Mooney flourished late in the innings with an unbeaten 31, but could not finish it off and the Irish ended up with 135 for 7.
Earlier, Mahela Jayawardene (78) hit a defiant half-century to help Sri Lanka recover from a shaky start. The islanders were surprised by a spirited Irish attack -- a very effective pace-spin combination -- which almost strangled them after Jayawardene elected to bat.
Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya (27) shared a 67-run third wicket stand to bring some respectability to the Lankan innings. The former, with a 53-ball knock that was adorned with nine elegant drives and one shot over the ropes, saved Lankans the blushes.
Such was the dominance of Ireland's pacers at the start that a formidable Lankan batting line-up was made to look ordinary. Only 28 runs could be scored in the first six overs and the scorecard read 67 at the half-way mark.
Alex Cusack was the star of the Irish attack, claiming four wickets.
Starting the proceedings, Boyd Rankin (2-27) pitched one short that bounced a bit high and Tillakaratne Dilshan, attempting a pull, ended up hitting a skier which landed in the hands of Niall O' Brien.
Trent Johnston bowled in tandem with Rankin and shook the Lankans again when he had skipper Kumar Sangakkara (3) caught behind the wickets.
Old warhorses Jayawardene and Jayasuriya steadied the rocking ship with some sensible batting. However, the duo was made to work hard for those runs as Johnston and Rankin kept a tight line outside off-stump which hardly gave the pair any chance to score freely.
Jayawardene and Jayasuriya had to rely on ones and twos until spinner Regan West was introduced. Jayawardene found his touch as he played some elegant drives, hitting West for 14 runs in his second over, en route to his half-century.
Just when the partnership started to look threatening, off-spinner Kyle McCallan separated the duo by trapping Jayasuriya. He did not let new man-in Chamara Silva settle either and sent him back to the dug out.
Cusack took two wickets in his second over, further denting the Lankan innings. He sent back Jehan Mubarak (7) and Nuwan Kulasekra (1).
Muralitharan drew first blood for Sri Lanka, inducing an edge from Porterfield (31), which was gleefully accepted by Sangakkara behind the stumps.
Malinga's nagging deliveries further stiffled the Irish batsmen which resulted in the required run-rate soaring.
Andrew White broke the shackles by hitting Nuwan Kulasekara for a six and followed it up with a four. But the bowler had the last laugh in the same over.
It all boiled down to the Brien brothers but Mendis dismissed both Niall, who was stumped, and Kevin (0) in the gap of three balls.
Malinga then struck twice in two deliveries, dismissing Trent Johnston (7) and Andre Botha (0) and the writing was on the wall.