Sri Lanka seal World Cup quarters berth

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NEW DELHI, March 10, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka became the first team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals on Thursday after an emphatic victory over Zimbabwe that virtually ensures last eight spots for New Zealand and Pakistan. The joint hosts now have seven points from five games in Group A, one clear of New Zealand and Pakistan. Defending champions Australia, also almost certain to qualify, have five points.

Zimbabwe won the toss and chose to field in front of passionate home support at Pallekele but the decision backfired as Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan put on 282 for the first wicket on the way to a total of 327-6.

It was the fourth-highest stand for any wicket in a one-day international and demolished the mark for the highest first wicket partnership in a World Cup of 194 made by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar and Wajahatullah Wasti against New Zealand in Manchester in 1999.

Tharanga was eventually out for 133, caught by Elton Chigumbura off Chris Mpofu in the 45th over and Dilshan, on 144, followed shortly afterwards, caught by Tinashe Panyangara off Prosper Utseya.

Zimbabwe made a promising start to their reply, with Brendan Taylor (80) and Regis Chakabva (35) putting on 116 for the first wicket but