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World champions

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka fans burst firecrackers and danced on the streets as the national team won the World Twenty20 title beating India by six wickets in Dhaka yesterday.

Instant celebrations broke out at cricket grounds and public parks in the capital Colombo as well as in suburban towns where thousands of fans watched the game on giant television screens.

President Mahinda Rajapakse telephoned the Sri Lankan team in Dhaka to congratulate them for their biggest cricket win since the 1996 World Cup, his office said.

"A short while ago, the President spoke to the team and officials and congratulated them," an official said.

Motorists took to the streets tooting their horns and waved the national Lion flag to celebrate what many saw as a historic win bringing back memories of 1996 when Arjuna Ranatunga brought home the 50-over World Cup.

"Congratulations Sri Lanka," said President Rajapakse's legislator son, Namal Rajapakse. "Well played boys. Good game."

Sri Lanka went into the game with the offer of a million dollar bonus if they shed their reputation as chokers in the final against India.

The cash-strapped Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board had said it would treble the money it had previously promised if the team returned home from Bangladesh with the trophy.

"The Executive Committee of SLC which met at an emergency meeting this morning and decided to offer $1.5 million (including the original fee of $500,000) to the national team players in the event that they win the final," the board said in a statement.

Sri Lanka were the beaten finalists last time round when they lost to the West Indies even though they were the tournament hosts. They have also been beaten in the final of the last two 50-over World Cups.

Sri Lankan fans heaped praise on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, the stalwart duo who will retire from the shortest form of the game, for their final performance.

Sangakkara, the veteran left-hander knocked a 35-ball 52 not out in his last Twenty20 match to guide Sri Lanka's chase of a modest 131-run target in 17.5 overs at a packed Shere Bangla stadium.

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