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The Rediff Special/N.Ananthanarayanan
Sri Lanka on winning path
April 30, 2007
Australia won the rain-hit game by 53 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method on Saturday for an unprecedented hat-trick of successive titles.
The victory reconfirmed their supremacy in cricket but Sri Lanka showed they have what it takes to challenge them and showed the way for their sub-continent rivals India and Pakistan who were eliminated in the first round.
Neither India (2003) nor Pakistan (1999) were able to get so close to Australia in the last two finals.
Sri Lanka's long-term preparation and attention to detail shone through while India and Pakistan's performances often betrayed a lack of unity within the team.
At many points in the final at the Kensington Oval, Sri Lanka's calculated approach mirrored Australia's, particularly when seasoned batsmen Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara led an impressive chase of a huge target of 282 in the 38-overs-a-side game.
Two of Sri Lanka's three defeats in the World Cup were against Australia while the third was a one-wicket loss by South Africa in the second round despite fast bowler Lasith Malinga grabbing four wickets off successive balls.
Malinga, 23, finished with 18 wickets at 15.77 runs apiece despite missing three games due to an ankle injury and the bowler with a low-slung action was again impressive in the final when Adam Gilchrist overwhelmed the bowling with a record 149.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene attributed the new-found focus to Australian coach Tom Moody, who has transformed the team since he took over in 2005.
Young opening batsman Upul Tharanga, Malinga and talented middle-order batsman Chamara Silva all have benefited and can fill the gaps when Jayasuriya, off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and seamer Chaminda Vaas, their 1996 Cup winners in their 30s, retire from the game.
Moody praised the team's performance as exceptional and felt they could challenge Australia with a sustained build-up.
He played down speculation on Sunday he would quit as Sri Lanka coach, influenced to some extent by the tremendous response from players and the board to his methods.
"The Sri Lankans can walk away from this World Cup feeling very proud of what they have achieved," he said.
"They worked very, very hard to get to this point," he said. "They had an exceptional World Cup and to find themselves in the final against the best team in the world is a great achievement.
"To be fair, even Australia felt threatened at some point during the day when we were chasing that total," he said.
"It would have been very easy for a team to fold yesterday given what they were chasing but our guys were very focussed and had the belief they could get it."
The World Cup could well be the springboard for future success, particularly when Sri Lanka co-host the 2011 edition.
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