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Sri Lanka Fail Again - VB Series - Sri Lanka v England

Cricket News 17/01/03

Report By Jon Cocks

The two visiting teams to Australia squared off in century Adelaide heat in a match that would place the winner in poll position to join the host nation in the VB Finals series. On a slightly unusual Adelaide deck that was criss-crossed with green and kept a little low from the River End, England captain Nasser Hussain won the toss and elected to bat.

After fifteen overs, with the run-rate moving along at a run-a-ball, Hussain would have had cause to be happy with the decision. As the afternoon and evening wore on, Sri Lanka, despite being deprived of Number One strike bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan but bouyed by the flag-waving support at the River End, refused to go away.

With the Sri Lankan run chase on top of the asking rate and opposite number Sanath Jayasuriya on 99 (from just 83 balls), the England captain might have been excused for a howl of anguish at the cricket gods. Fickle fate seemed set to deny him the consolation of an appearance in the One-Day Finals in Australia and an ideal lead-in to the England World Cup campaign.

In the heat of the afternoon, England tore from the blocks, with Trescothick (39) severe on anything remotely wide of the stumps, but when he was bowled by Gamage, Michael Vaughan (28) made his long-awaited return to the ODI arena and the runs continued to flow. At 2-135 after 27, Hussain joined Nick Knight (88), whose excellent ODI form continued. When Hussain was dropped by keeper Sangakkara from the off-spin of Aravinda (8-0-45-0), he must surely have felt that it was his day.

However, the slow bowlers, led by Jayasuriya (10-0-48-1), applied the brakes for more than twenty overs. Jayasuriya bowled Hussain (18) off his pad and it wasn’t until the 38th over that the England 200 was posted. Bowling at the stumps with straight fields, the river of boundaries dried to a trickle and the scoreboard attendants found the pace much more leisurely.

Then Chaminda Vaas (10-0-54-2) made the double breakthrough in the 42nd over with the score on 206, having Knight caught by Sangakkara and trapping Blackwell LBW with his next ball. The Sri Lankan drums pounded and the flags waved, as the England ship listed after the double broadside. The first four partnerships had all contributed well to the cause, but the momentum was gone.

Man For All Seasons Alec Stewart (51 from 59 balls) emerged and immediately set about the bowling with his own inimitable authority. A run-rate that had dipped below five on a good batting wicket was restored in next to no time. Your correspondent had insufficient time to put down his iced coffee and portable tape player in order to catch Stewart’s six over mid wicket that was dropped by the incompetent in front.

Collingwood (18) supported Stewart well, as did Irani (13), who finally hit double figures with the bat. Fernando (2-52) finished well, but Vaas took stick from Stewart, who was finally yorked by Gamage (2-42) in the final over. Hussain may been satisfied at the innings break with 7-279, but 300 was a distinct possibility at the halfway point.

After six overs of the Sri Lankan reply, any England complacency was gone. With Jayasuriya continuing his stellar batting form, Sri Lanka had hurried to a bull-ish 1-40, despite the loss of Attapattu (12), bowled by Man -of-the-Match Andy Caddick (4-34).

Steve Harmison’s wide woes had continued, his two overs costing 27, but his one-day disaster got worse when he appeared to turn an ankle and left the field, not to return and to create a logistical bowler management problem for his captain. After thirteen overs, Tillekaratne (9) was caught by Stewart, also from Caddick, but Jayasuriya was playing superbly square of the wicket on both sides and the score had advanced to 2-77.

Sri Lanka had maintained a run-a-ball while the fielding restrictions applied during the first fifteen overs, aided in part by Jimmy Anderson’s first five overs going for 35. No improvement in bowling economy characterised the ten following overs, despite Aravinda (15) being caught by the keeper from Paul Collingwood. Jayasuriya’s fifty had taken just over thirty deliveries and - at 3-119 in the twentieth over - England’s only hope was to take more wickets. Unfortunately, the most effective England bowler - Andy Caddick – had just two left up his sleeve.

Sri Lanka had advanced nearly 20 ahead of the required run-rate and the time for some inspiration was rapidly approaching. Symptomatic of England’s troubles, Collingwood stopped one well at mid on, but his underhand flick to the bowler was astray and the Sri Lankans stole a bye. At 3-148 after 25 overs, Sri Lanka required just 5.28 an over and seemed set to displace England in second spot on the VB table.

Four balls after the halfway drinks break, Ronnie Irani (1-36 from ten) struck, with Michael Vaughan accepting a straightforward catch to remove Jayawardene (13). Jayasuriya ran one for his hundred that was ruled a leg bye and the score was 4-157 in the 28th over, but the game-breaking moment arrived two balls later.

Jayasuriya pushed one down to mid off and set off for the single to raise his triple figures. Unfortunately, Sangakkara was watching the fielder – Hussain – and bumped into his captain mid-pitch, forcing him to run wide to make his ground. Meanwhile, Jayasuriya’s opposite number Hussain gathered cleanly and threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end. At 5-165 after 29 overs, 115 from 126 balls could have been achievable with at least one more decent partnership.

Kumar Sangakkara and Russel Arnold did their best to build that partnership, but Blackwell (10-0-44-0) from the River End and Vaughan (7-0-35-1), bowling his offies from the Cathedral End restricted all but a trickle of singles. The asking rate rose above a run-a-ball for the first time in the 35th over.

The crowd hushed, as the sixth wicket partnership steadily accumulated runs, but could not find the boundaries needed to ease the run-rate pressure. With eight overs left, the asking rate had risen to eight, but Hussain removed Blackwell and gambled on Anderson, who bowled three wides and was hooked for six by Arnold to keep the Sri Lankans in the contest.

Caddick returned to bowl his last two overs at the River End and with his fourth ball he broke the 93-run sixth wicket partnership, when Sangakkara (56) holed out to Blackwell. A couple of squadrons of the Barmy Army, who no doubt chilled out during the hot afternoon at the nearby Queen’s Head Hotel, suddenly filled the balmy evening air with their unmistakable lyrics and Sri Lankan resistance crumbled, all out 19 runs short of victory with four balls to spare.

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