4th February 2001

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Arnold rises as swashbuckler

Sri Lanka's Russel Arnold punished New Zealand again for a poor batting effort when scoring his second half century of the National Bank series and helping his side to a three- wicket win at WestpacTrust Stadium in Wellington yesterday.

The slightly built middle-order batsman steered his side home with an unbeaten innings of 78 not out in the 49th over, Sri Lanka's last after its earlier poor bowling rate, to secure a 2-0 lead for the visitors and to extend New Zealand's losing run.

Sri Lanka bowled their overs so slowly that match referee Peter Burge of Australia took an over off them but they got home with three balls to spare.

New Zealand defended its total of 204/7 with determination but ultimately it paid the price for the failure of its top order batting.

There was vastly improved quality in the Kiwi fielding, none better than wicket-keeper Adam Parore's diving catch for the first dismissal of the innings to remove Atapattu. There was also Mathew Sinclair's superb throw to remove Mahela Jaya-wardene at a crucial stage of the innings when he was batting with Aravinda de Silva.

It was ironic that one blemish, when 20 balls remained 12th man Andrew Penn failed to control a ball that should have resulted in only one but which went through his hands and on to the boundary for four. It took key performer Russel Arnold to 66. Ultimately, it didn't matter but in the developing pressure it was a let off.

Daniel Vettori continued his impressive return from injury with another controlled spell of bowling.

Frugal as ever, he had reward for accuracy and perseverance when trapping de Silva leg before wicket for 37 which broke a potentially worrying partnership of 63 off 94 balls with Russel Arnold. He took one for 30 from his 10 overs.

At the time of his dismissal in the 39th over, the required run rate for Sri Lanka had just slipped over six an over.

Skipper Stephen Fleming continued the fielding excellence with a direct hit on the stumps to run out Kumara Dharmasena, the ball after a third umpire adjudication was needed over whether fielder Chris Martin had touched the boundary rope in fielding the ball. It was ruled he hadn't and Kumara Dharmasena was left to face bowler Franklin.

The first ball he faced he hit around the corner to Fleming at square leg and the Kiwi skipper picked the ball up and hit the stumps with Dharmasena well out of his ground.

With 13 balls remaining and 15 runs needed, Upashantha became a sacrificial victim for Arnold to get down the other end to keep the strike for the start of the penultimate over. Harris at gully swooped in on the ball and scooped, rugby halfback dive pass fashion, to break the wickets.

New Zealand's batting was restricted by some good tight bowling, particularly from Nuwan Zoysa, who finished with his best one-day figures of four for 28.

Nuwan Zoysa took the first two wickets to fall, Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming, and then chimed in with two more later in the innings, including top-scorer Chris Harris for 56 and James Franklin with the last ball of the innings.

Muttiah Muralitharan was more expensive than usual, going for 40 runs off his full 10 overs without claiming a wicket.

The New Zealand batsmen did not look comfortable until Harris and Craig McMillan put on 63 for the fourth wicket and then Harris and Adam Parore (35) added 59 to give the score a more respectable look. - CricInfo

Scoreboard New Zealand M.Sinclair c Sangakkara b Dharmasena 20 N.Astle c de Silva b Zoysa 17 S.Fleming c Sangakkara b Zoysa 0 R.Twose retired hurt 11 C.McMillan c & b Jayasuriya 37 C.Harris b Zoysa 56 A.Parore c Attapattu b Fernando 35 J.Oram b Fernando 2 D.Vettori not out 6 J.Franklin b Zoysa 1 Extras (w-9 nb-9 lb-2) 20 Total (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 205 Fall of wickets: 1-34 2-41 3-48 4-125 5-184 6-193 7-195 8-205. Did not bat: C.Martin Bowling: Zoysa 9-2-28-4 (nb1), Upashantha 5-0-30-0 (w3 nb1), Muralitharan 10-1-40-0 (w1), Dharmasena 8-0-25-1, Fernando 6-0-34-2 (w4 nb6), de Silva 3-0-14-0, Jayasuriya 9-0-32-1 (w1). Sri Lanka S.Jayasuriya c Parore b Oram 38 M.Attapattu c Parore b Martin 5 K.Sangakkara c Astle b Oram 13 M.Jayawardene run out (Sinclair) 7 Silva lbw b Vettori 37 R.Arnold not out 78 K.Dharmasena run out (Fleming) 4 E.Upashantha run out (Harris) 4 N.Zoysa not out 6 Extras (w-1 nb-3 lb-10) 14 Total (for seven wickets, 48.3 overs) 206 Fall of wickets: 1-23 2-56 3-63 4-82 5-145 6-164 7-191 Did not bat: M.Muralitharan, D.Fernando Bowling: Martin 7-0-35-1 (w1 nb1), Franklin 8-1-36-1 (nb1), Oram 5-0-20-2, Vettori 10-1-30-1 (nb1), Harris 10-0-38-0, Astle 2-0-10-0, McMillan 6.3-0-27-0. Result: Sri Lanka won by three wickets. Man of the Match: Russel Arnold.

Legal dispute could pull plug on Test coverage in UK

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Chief Cricket correspondent

VIEWERS in the UK hoping to see the Test series between Sri Lanka and England on television face an anxious wait to see whether any pictures will be transmitted. Coverage is threatened by a legal dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) and the sports agency, WSG Nimbus, which was to have produced the coverage. Channel 4 highlights are similarly dependent on an eleventh-hour resolution of the disagreement.

On Tuesday, the BCCSL filed an application in the High Court and was granted an interim enjoining order against WSG Nimbus by a commercial High Court judge but the case will not be heard until February 13.

Meanwhile, the BCCSL president, Thilanga Sumathipula, said that alternative negotiations had started with three other production companies. A spokesman for the company with the widest experience of Test cricket production, the IMG-owned Trans World International (TWI), said that any production company would need a minimum of ten days to transport equipment to Sri Lanka and to set it up in readiness for a full-scale transmission, with all the slow-motion replay equipment and other sophistications of contemporary television coverage.

Vic Wakeling, the head of Sky Sport, appeared unconcerned yesterday, however.

"We will be the first port of call for whoever transmits the pictures because we have paid a substantial sum for the rights," he said. "I am waiting to hear the latest situation from the head of WSG but I understand that the Sri Lankan Board is also talking to other production companies and we have good relations with them all."

Matt Baker, head of Channel 4 publicity, said: "We have an agreement with Sky for the highlights and we are still hopeful that we shall be showing them."

With only three weeks to go before the first Test in Galle, time is short. The dispute revolves around non-payment of a bank guarantee of US $2.7 million (about £1.8 million) by WSG before January 20.

WSG, who in a separate consortium with News Corporation, also have a US $550 million (about £380 million) contract with the ICC for the next seven years of ICC tournaments, had signed a US $27.1 million three-year television and radio broadcasting deal with the board in December. WSG Nimbus contended that they were still awaiting confirmation on the planned three-year schedule and that "WSG Nimbus's obligations to the BCCSL are conditional upon the BCCSL providing confirmation". Against the advice of the Sports Minister, Lakshmann Kiriella, the board wants to offer the three-year contract to TWI.

Since the radio rights to the Wireless Group (TalkSport) were also sub-let through WSG Nimbus, radio commentary is threatened, too. BBC Radio was originally outbid but might again throw its hat into the ring if TWI, who supplied Sky with outstanding coverage from Pakistan, become involved.

Times, London.

Expect a hard fought series

Most of the time during the past decade the England cricket team has been battling for survival. They were not able to string together consistent performances against the other top playing nations. In the rankings their slot has been around middle or the lower middle bracket.

The year 2000 has seen a gradual resurgence in performances culminating in that final Test and series win against Pakistan in Pakistan. One contributing factor has been the combination of coach and captain. Duncan Fletcher, the former Zimbabwean player is asserting himself to be one of the best coaches in the business. He has shown immense confidence in Captain Nasser Hussain and that in turn has rubbed off on the players.

Confidence plays such a huge part in success both for the individual player and the team. This has been demonstrated in England's recent results. The team is now more settled with an ample mixture of maturity, experience and youth.

England began their summer of 2000 against the lesser fancied Zimbabweans. It was the ideal situation, the ideal opposition, to resign the past into the past and start afresh. Their success in that series rolled on and when the pressure mounted the West Inidans, the next opponents, slipped and slid to defeat. For the home team it was one of their most satisfying seson for a long, long time.

Then, on October 24th, in Karachi, they registered a One Day win after a near impossible chase. Pakistan's 304 for 9 in fifty overs, looked a near impossible task. However, Nasser Hussain, Graeme Hick, Graham Thorpe and Andrew Flintoff had other ideas. They got their team home and dry with a win, still 2.4 overs were remainging.

It was a case of neither team yielding after two Test matches were played. England were not expected, nor supposed, to do well on those turning pitches. Hussain's men were determined and tough. Cometh the final day of the series all resources were summoned and a historic win was achieved.

Has English Cricket turned the corner? Well, they seem to be embracing some of the policies that teams like Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka ( in the One Day Games) and the West Indies of the past, have adopted. They now seem to be ready to move away from traditionalist ideas of the past and progress by so many nations that no country wants to play second fiddle. They are all motivated to succeed.

The visitors have plenty of time and match cricket to acclimatize to local conditions. After a few weeks in wintry conditions they have more than three weeks before the first Test match in Galle.

The batting line-up is as experienced as any in the world. Hussain, Atherton, Hick, Thorpe, Stewart, have all been around for a long time and have been sug_cessful too.

Should these five players play to their best potential the foundation will be laid for the bowlers to capitalize.

During their dark days it has been spineless batting collapse that mainly contributed towards their failures.

Darren Gough, Andrew Cadick and Craig White have performed as silent assassins in recent times. Although not in the quick and scary category of quick bowlers, these three have the fire power to demolish the best of batting sides. Left arm spinner Ashley Giles was the bowling find of the Pakistan tour. The experienced Robert Croft has been recalled. The bowling is adequate to perform on Sri Lankan pitches.

The home team, battle scarred in South Africa has drawn first blood in the One Day Series in New Zealand. Bowling hero Muttiah Muralitharan is going to be the one big thorn for the Englishmen. His performances will weigh the scales towards Sri Lanka's favour.

Have Fletcher, Hussain and company discovered a formula to tackle the ace off-spinner. Time and a hard fought series will tell.

England ponder over Murali magic

By Marlon Fernandopulle

Despite having their tails up and being on a roll after beating Zimbabwe,West Indies and Pakistan in Tests,England Captain Nasser Hussain and Coach Duncan Fletcher were skeptical about their test and one day tour of Sri Lanka.

The reason is straightforward and simple.They have to face the wiles of the world's greatest spinner Muttaih Muralitharan on wickets tailormade for him.

The last time England played in Colombo(1992/93) Muttiah Muralitharan who was just twenty years old picked up five wickets on a dusty,brown SSC wicket to send the Englismen crashing to defeat.

Having tasted the success against the Englis-hmen, Muralitharan had to wait over six years before he confronted them ag-ain.

However, this time the setting was different with the action shifting from Colombo to the Oval in London.But,it made no difference for the dusky,eagle eyed off spinner.

"He bamboozled the Englishman to pick up sixteen wickets and sent Alec Stewart's team crumbling to defeat.

Stewart acknowledged Murali's feat saying, "He is very difficult to play because he spins it so much more than anyone I have seen,which is why it is very hard to get on top of the guy".

Although the present captain Nasser Hussain was not part of the team he remembers Murali's phenomenal bowling feat at the Oval.

"He was devastating and bowled us out single handedly",the skipper recalled before leaving England.

Since his record breaking feat at the Oval in 1998 Murali has improved in leaps and bounds adding even more variety to his bowling armoury to keep the batsman guessing.

Lately he passed the 300 wicket mark in a record number of tests and picked up seven wickets in a one dayer,which incidentally is a world record.

At the Press Conference in Colombo Hussain did not mince his words as he once again rated the off spinner as the best in the world.

"Murali spins the ball a lot.He is a very fine bowler and is on his way to being the best bowler of all time".

Never before has a visiting Coach,Captain or Player spoken in such glowing terms of a Sri Lankan player even before a ball has been bowled. There is no doubt that the Englishmen are spending a great amount of time discussing and debating on how to counter the extraordinary range of skills of Muralitharan.

The captain was modest when he admitted that the team with the help of coach Duncan Fletcher have been watching a lot of videos on the bowler in a bid to blunt him. When asked how confident he was in facing the Lankans in the Test series,Coach Duncan Fletcher, who has helped England notch up three successive test series victories replied saying, "we will first look at how the first test goes and take it from there." Surely the Murali factor must have been on his mind.

World soccer chief will be in Lanka

By Gamini Perera

The President of the FIFA, the world controlling body for football, Joseph S. Blatter and a host of distinguished football luminaries are expected to attend the opening of the national training centre for football and the new headquarters of the FFSL scheduled for the 14th of May 2001.

Joseph Blatter, who took over the Presidency of FIFA from the illustrious Joao Havelange is a German by birth and has been FIFA's General Secretary for a number of years.


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