Praise them for the effort
Mahela Jayawardena’s Sri Lankans played very good cricket throughout their World Cup campaign, but that was not good enough to damage the huge Australian brick wall. Most teams could only scratch on the surface. The Sri Lankans threatened for about eight overs, then fell by the wayside.
|The Lankan squad walking into a Heroes’ welcome after their exploits in the West Indies - Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
To beat the Australians a team must play well through the entire game, matching them each over and should they have a bad over or two come back strongly straight away. That is the brand of cricket the Aussies play and it’s the only way to match them. For that the opposition must have quality players who can match up man-for-man.
All good teams study their opponents thoroughly and go onto the field to negate individuals’ strong points. Reduce their effectiveness to the maximum. To do that there must be players capable of taking on the top players in the opposite camp.
Ricky Ponting won the toss and that was the first battle won. To post runs on the board seemed the way to go. Bridgetown, Barbados, has been known to be fast, bouncy surface and a venue where many great West Indian teams have emerged triumphant. Judging from the earlier games the pitches presently did not have that much sting. Of course, prepared for one day cricket, without too much advantage for the bowlers.
In most of the games, with an early start, quicker bowlers were able to dart the ball around in the initial overs. Not so on this day. Vaas relies on movement was dead straight, in the air and off the pitch.
To restrict the Aussies, the Sri Lankans had to pick up regular wickets. About 225 – 230 runs is what seemed the maximum possible chase, after the overs were reduced to thirty eight per side. The Australian batting plan became evident early. They were going to protect their wickets against Malinga and Muralitharan and look to plunder runs off Vass, Fernando, Jayasuriya and Dilshan. They succeeded in that Muralitharan got no wickets and Malinga got two after the damage had been done. All the bowlers tried by Jayawardena went for over six runs an over.
Once Hayden and Gilchrist had amassed 172 runs in 22.5 overs, the Sri Lankan’s body language indicated that they had caved in. Even the celebration of a wicket was not enthusiastic as usual. Gilchrist, playing in probably what would be his last World Cup had the game of his life. He could do nothing wrong on the day. Hayden, Ponting, Symonds, played around him. Although the run rate was pulled back somewhat after Gilchrist’s departure a score of 281 in 38, is a mammoth score.
Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, had to play at their best ever. Support was required from Upul Tharanga, T.M. Dilshan and Russel Arnold. In the beginning they seemed too shell shocked to punish the Aussies.
For a short period of time Sri Lankan hopes were raised with the Jayasuriya, Sangakkara combination and scoring at over seven an over. They had to be there to the end and if not both, certainly one of them. In the pursuit for quick runs Sangakkara picked the wrong delivery for the pull shot off Hogg. It was pitched too close to him and bounced more than expected. The breakthrough the Australians wanted. It was enough for them to strangle the Sri Lankans and Jayasuriya also fell shortly, with the asking rate mounting.
Captain Jayawardena, Chamara Silva and Dilshan, scored at a run a ball but that was not enough at that stage. The Aussies were home and dry. In the end the margin of defeat was fifty three runs. The best any team had done against Ricky Ponting’s all conquering outfit.
Give all credit to them for lifting the game to another level. The Sri Lankans did almost as well as they could. To be runners up was a commendable achievement. All praise to the team, coach and the support staff.