Sri Lankan president hails runners-up

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 29, 2007– Sri Lanka’s president Sunday congratulated the national team’s World Cup effort and pledged to help the side prepare for the future after their finals loss to Australia.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, who travelled to Barbados for the finals match, said captain Mahela Jayawardene and his team mates did a great job in the two-month tournament.

“I congratulate the captain and members of the Sri Lanka cricket team on the success in finishing runners-up in the ICC World Cup 2007 tournament,” he said in a statement.

“I take this occasion to renew my government’s pledge to give all assistance to the continued success of Sri Lankan cricket,” the president said, adding he wished the team success “in the days ahead.”

Just before the match got underway on Saturday in the Caribbean, Rajapakse said over national television he believed Sri Lanka would win the cup because they had a “balanced team.”

In Sri Lanka, the game was marred after Tamil Tiger air attacks on the capital during the match forced fans to flee their parties for safety.

Fans dressed in the Sri Lankan team T-shirts and carrying the national flag had earlier braved the rain to gather in their hundreds at playgrounds, clubs, hotels and bars showing live coverage of the match on giant screens.

The rebel Tamil Tigers have waged a campaign for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka that has claimed more than 60,000 lives in the past 35 years.

Australia won the World Cup for a record third successive time when they completed a 53-run victory on Duckworth-Lewis method against Sri Lanka in virtual darkness at the Kensington Oval on Saturday.