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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Report

Jayasuriya century fires Sri Lanka to easy win

Prem Panicker | March 21, 2007 23:13 IST
Last Updated: March 22, 2007 02:52 IST

Scorecard | Images

Hindsight is a beautiful thing - and if it is someone else's cock-up that you can see in your rearview mirror, it's even better.

When doing its homework ahead of today's key game against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka likely noticed a few things: one, that Bangladesh depends on a slew of slow left arm spinners to apply the choke after the seamers have done their stuff and two, that in the game against India, the Bangla spinners could weave such tight lines mainly because India hobbled in the initial overs, never making any attempt to take singles or otherwise proactively push the two lead seamers off their line and length.

On being inserted by Bangladesh at the Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad, Sri Lanka sought to learn from India's mistake, and went hard at Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel. Both openers were beaten, even embarassed, on occasion; both openers should, given a smidgen more luck for Bangladesh, have been out early.

Two Jayasuriya edges flew at catchable height through the second slip region; in the 4th over, Upul Tharanga took off as if he had heard the starter's gun at the Olympic 100 meters final and Rasel, fielding on the follow through, missed the stumps with Tharanga yards out of his ground.

Rather than worry about the seaming ball or the near mishaps, the two openers threw their bats hard at anything even remotely in hitting range, and ensured that the Bangladesh bowlers did not have the luxury of bowling their favorite lines and lengths.

It was only in the 15th over that Bangladesh finally grabbed an opportunity: Mohammad Rafique dropped one short outside off, Tharanga rocked back and punched and Aftab, at backward point, timed his jump perfectly, plucking the ball one handed from overhead while fully airborne. Tharanga was not at his most convincing in the 26 off 37 knock; his idiosyncratic calling on quick singles created at least four run out opportunities during the first wicket stand that were missed.

Jayasuriya was his usual self, flat batting cuts, hoisting flicked drives over the infield and, when occasion afforded, smoking cut-drives through the covers off either foot. Like Tharanga, he too looked edgy early on, survived his share of edges and run outs, but kept hitting away anyway, and, as is usual with him, soon found his range, power and timing.

He was coasting along when Mahela Jayawardene sent him back on an attempted run; the batsman turned awkwardly and appeared to have injured/twisted something in the knee region - he limped away, in evident pain, with 83/77 to his name, 52 of those runs coming off six fours and four sixes.

While Kumar Sangakkarra played in his usual languidly stylish fashion, Jayawardene focussed on finding a measure of form, and produced a patchwork quilt of an innings. For the most part, he seemed unsure of whether to go forward or back; often he was caught on top of the crease, in an indeterminate position, he seemed to struggle to work the bowling, especially the spinners, off the square.

Every now and again, though, he would unfurl a lovely hit , down on his knee, bat scything through the hitting arc, and powering the ball a long way over midwicket. Those shots, however, masked considerable uncertainty; two lapses also extended his tenure beyond its natural course. In the 29th over, Rafique tossed one up, Jayawardene looked to go inside out over cover but didn't hit it too well, Bashar timed his jump superbly and got his hand to it, but then failed to cling on, with Jayawardene 24/50 at the time.

An over later, Jayawardene stayed back looking to cut Saqibul Hasan, but only managed to edge it behind. On this occasion, the umpire turned down the ferocious appeal.

In the 36th over, Jayawardene came down to Hasan, tried to go inside out, and either checked his shot, or was foxed by a ball that held up a touch. He ended up chipping the ball, off the toe of the bat, to the fielder at long off, for the softest of dismissals. On paper, his 46/70 looks halfway decent; break it down, though, and you found 44 dot balls in there. Rafique in particular tied him up - of 32 deliveries bowled to the Lankan captain, 23 were unscored of.

Sangakkarra is at his best when he is batting unhurriedly; once he has to shift from his languid style to the frenetic thrash of the slog, he tends to look not so good. In the 45th over, he swatted at Rasel and was lucky to be put down, Bashar again the culprit. Off the very next ball, he went for another swat, straighter this time, and Tamim Iqbal held at long on (56/55; Lanka 261/3).

Any doubts about Jayasuriya's fitness were laid to rest when he walked out to resume his innings - the lure of a looming century was apparently too much to resist. And the way he ran a second run at Olympic speed, his knee is absolutely fine, as is the rest of him.

A flicked six to get thgings stated, a paddled four as follow up, a mishit hook, then a waltz down the track to power the ball over wide long on, and the century - his 24th - was his. He celebrated by carting the hapless Razzak over long off. Jayasuriya was lucky, shortly after his return to the crease, to be given not out when he missed with an attempt to reverse sweep; one more such attempt, however, ended up in the hands of short fine leg (109/87; 300/4).

Chamara Silva was his usual busy self, starting out slowly, creaming a six over extra cover as his second scoring shot, then motoring on through a mixture of big hits and intelligent pushes and flicks into the outfield. As the innings wound down, he opened out - the shot of the match had to be a superb, almost Viv Richard-esque, flicked six off an attempted yorker by Mortaza.

Sri Lanka ended on 318/4 - a totally professional performance, fired at the top by Jayasuriya and at the end by Chamara Silva with Sangakkarra playing backbone.

Bangladesh on the day suffered on two counts: the first, that Jayasuriya never gave their pacemen time to settle and, equally crucially, that their fielding and catching, brilliant against India, could not recapture that fine rapture.

There were some spectacular saves and catches - the moment of the innings, for me, was the diminutive Mohammad Ashraful, right on the line at midwicket, going up like a dolphin and, while a good two feet or more off the air, getting a hand to the ball, and retaining enough presence of mind to realize that if he came down with ball in hand it would be six, and to palm it into the field of play before touching down. But such moments of brilliance were punctuated with some ordinary moments as well, and the dropped chances and run outs cost the fielding side dearly, diluting the pressure the bowlers, especially the spinners, brought to bear.

On balance, this is Sri Lanka's game by a mile; the point of interest in the second half will be to see if the three teens at the top of the Bangla batting lineup, and the unpredictable Ashraful, can put on a feisty display against the Lankan array of pace and spin.

Bangladesh innings:

When Chaminda Vaas was taking his first ODI wicket way back in 1994, Shahriar Nafees was facing nothing more legal than his mother and sister in the backyard of the family home.

That vast gap in experience pretty much summed up the start of the Bangladesh chase: Chaminda Vaas bowled one outswinger, then another, then another; the sequence primed Nafees and then Vaas bent one back in and that was that, the batsman out LBW.

Personally, I was most eager to see what the prodigious Tamim Iqbal could do. Yes, the target the Indians gave him was small; yes, the situation was ripe for early use of the long handle and yes, at least at one end, the bowling was geriatric.

But there was something immensely promising about the shots he played, the way he shaped at the crease, even the way he took a nutcracker on the head from Zaheer and then waltzed out to him.

I thought I'd probably get an encore when Tamim stood up on his hind legs and cracked Malinga through the covers. The very next ball dumped that hope in the dustbin and the player in the pavilion: Malinga scorched one across, back of length; the ball stood up, it seamed away at searing pace, and Tamim could only stand pinned at the top of the crease, fishing and giving Sangakkara an easy take behind the stumps.

Aftab Ahmed showed brief promise, cracking two fours on the on side with great fluency when the ball was pitched up to him. Malinga banged one down just back of length; Ahmed looked to hook a ball that was still climbing into him when he played the shot. Cramped for room, he ended up hitting high in the air and from fine leg, halfway to the boundary, Sanath Jayasuriya came steaming in on his 37-year-old legs, yelling for the catch and taking it under the nose of square leg, who only had a few feet to run.

Mushfiqur Rahim fell to the cut. The Maharoof delivery wasn't particularly distinguished - in fact, it was short, and wide, and wayward. Rahim cut, and should have got four - only, Tilekkeratne Dilshan dived to his left and above, and held a beauty.

Muralitharan came in, and to the left handed Saqibul Hasan, reprised the Vaas three card trick. A couple of off spinners, then the doosra pitching in the same spot; Hasan figured he had the measure of the off spinner, leaned back to cut, and watched in horror as the ball snuck under the bat and onto the stumps.

Half the side was back in the hut with just 41 runs in under 17 overs - and the Sri Lankan strength in the field was on full display. It has an attack led by a tearaway and a vastly experienced bowler who if anything bowls slower than Irfan Pathan today, but brings to his craft all the wisdom of a Zen master.

It has, as strikeforce in the middle overs, a spinner who can turn the ball square on a billiard table, and treats the whole thing like a chess game, planning his dismissals a couple of overs ahead and executing them to precision (Only the umpire's benevolence saved Ashraful: Murli went around the wicket, bowled a couple of off spinners on off and middle stump, then speared one in straighter and quicker and nailed the batsman plumb - another immaculate set up).

In Farvez, it has an adequate support seamer, and then come the array of bits and pieces boys, all capable of landing the ball on the dime their captain puts on the pitch.

Their greatest strength, though, is in the fielding and catching. While Rahul Dravid is apologizing for his 34-year-old senior men not being too fleet, and talking of making up the lapses with the bat, Lanka has a 37-year-old who does a 100 meter dash to bring off a catch his colleague could have held by walking forward a few steps - and Jayasuriya is not among the top five fielders in this side.

The last two factors combined to end the studied resistance of skipper Habibul Bashar. Having put down a couple in the field, Bashar was under pressure to deliver with the bat, and he seemed intent on doing just that, playing careful lines and eschewing all risk. Jayasuriya came on, Mohammad Ashraful turned him around the corner, Bashar called - and was run out by a good two yards as Jayawardene swooped in from short fine leg (interesting position for a captain, that), fielded and, in the same motion, underarmed the stumps down.

The rain interrupted Lanka's progress, but once play resumed, the bowlers scythed through the remaining wickets. The only point of interest was the batting of Mohammad Ashraful, that most enigmatic of Bangladeshi batsmen, capable of heroics on one day and the most asinine batting the next.

Today was one of his more sublime days - some of the shots he uncorked would not have shamed a top player from one of the top teams. He held Muralitharan at bay; he fancied Malinga and took him for four fours, only one of them streaky; he even handled Sangakkara's non-stop chatter with equanimity - he did enough, in short, to make you wish he had someone who could hold the other end up, just so he could express himself fully.

A desperate attempt by Ashraful to farm the strike and prolong the innings led to the run out that ended the game; Bangladesh was bowled out for 113, giving Sri Lanka a win by 198 runs and leaving Ashraful unbeaten on 46.

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