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The Rediff Interview
Windies, Lanka set for showdown
February 26, 2003
Sri Lanka and West Indies are set for a major World Cup showdown on Friday, both sides struggling for form and well aware that defeat would probably end their hopes in the tournament.
The winners of the day-nighter at Newlands could well finish top of Group B, while the losers risk failing to qualify for the Super Sixes.
The stakes have been made even higher by Sri Lanka's loss to Kenya in their last game, while West Indies had to recover from a poor start before beating tournament minnows Canada.
"If we had any thoughts or complacency about how tough it's going to be for the next couple of weeks, I think the game against Canada was a good wake-up call for us," said West Indies captain Carl Hooper.
"If we thought for a minute that it was going to be a piece of cake to beat Sri Lanka...then maybe we should sit down and check our attitudes and the way we are approaching the one-day game."
West Indies made a flying start to the World Cup when they upset South Africa in the tournament opener in Cape Town, Brian Lara paving the way with a masterful century.
But they have largely struggled since then, losing to New Zealand, missing out on valuable points when their match against struggling Bangladesh was rained out before beating Canada.
Victory over the Canadians was hastened by lightning-fast fifties from Lara and opener Wavell Hinds, but it was also marred by sub-standard bowling and fielding.
Canada's Australian recruit John Davison exposed the frailty of the West Indies attack by blasting a century off just 67 balls, the fastest ever World Cup hundred.
Davison only bats at nine in Australia's domestic competition and a major concern for captain Hooper is that his team have to contain Sri Lanka skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, one of the world's most explosive opening batsman.
"It (the Canada game) forced us to re-think some of our plans and our strategy and how to adapt to certain situations," said Hooper.
"We've just to be more accurate. When you play a guy like Jayasuriya, if you're not accurate enough, he can punish you.
"We've got to be more consistent in the plan we're trying to execute, whether it be fuller balls or shorter balls."
Sri Lanka, the 1996 world champions, appeared to be cruising towards the Super Sixes when they easily won their first three games before the wheels suddenly fell off against Kenya, one of the tournament's real minnows.
That result has left them needing to win at least one of their last two group matches, against West Indies and South Africa, to stay in the competition.
Jayasuriya concedes he is worried.
"This (the Kenya game) was our best opportunity to win before our next big match but we didn't play well and this puts us under pressure to beat West Indies in Cape Town," he said.
"That match, and the one against South Africa, will be a big test of our character."
Unlike West Indies, Sri Lanka's problems lie with their batting. Off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and seamer Chaminda Vaas have been racking up the wickets in style but the batsmen have let them down.
Left-handed Jayasuriya hit a brilliant century in the opening game against New Zealand to guide his team to victory but, when he fell cheaply against Kenya in Nairobi, the rest of the batting quickly folded.