Friday finale before final
Overflowing stadium for Sri Lanka-Australia battle of the giants
By Marlon Fernandopulle
The Battle lines are drawn and the stage is set for a clash that has been on the lips and minds of all cricket crazy Sri Lankans. Australia versus Sri Lanka, It may not be the final, but the ICC Champions trophy semi final between the current World Champions and the host country has generated tremendous enthusiasm and interest among the locals.

The fiasco that unfolded in the 1995 boxing day test at the Melbourne Cricket ground involving Muttiah Muralitharan and Umpire Darell Hair,the refusal of Australia to honour their World Cup game in 1996, the subsequent thrashing Australia received in the 1996 World Cup final and the onfield confrontations between Arjuna Rantunge and Shane Warne are some of the incidents that have led to the building up of animosity and a huge interest between these two great one day teams.

With all tickets sold out the Premadasa Stadium is expected to be bursting at it's seams on Friday as the 30-35,000 capacity crowd cheer the Lankans in a bid to knock the Aussies out of the Championship.

The Aussies play their cricket very hard and are currently in top gear. They thrashed the defending champs New Zealand by 164 runs and trounced Bangladesh by 9 wickets to set up the semi final clash against Sri Lanka.

However the Kangaroos are aware that the semi final is going to be something different. "Sri Lanka play very well in these conditions and will enjoy playing in front of a big home crowd. We have to be on top of our game if we are to be competitive", noted captain Ricky Ponting who along with his team mates flew to the Maldives soon after their game against Bangladesh on Thursday.

The Skipper was also of the view that his team generally performs quite well after a rest, hence the team opted for a rest in the Maldives. Like the Australians the Lankans also enjoyed a cakewalk in the preliminary round defeating Pakistan and Holland with ease.

However against Ricky Pontings Australians the Lankans are aware that they will have to put their best foot forward if they are to get the better of the World Champions. They will font up to an accurate and penetrative pace attack comprising Glen Mcgrath, Jason Gillespie and Bret Lee.

Mcgrath, as always has been Australia's key strike bowler. The tall right arm medium pacer who picked up his 250 th one day wicket during the tournament has a unique ability to consistently pitch the ball on the corriodor of uncertainity and trouble the batters.

Supported by the unpredictable Jason Gillespie and speedster Brett Lee the Aussies pace trio will be gunning for Sri Lanka's top order of Sanath Jayasuriya and company. On the other hand the Lankans will be looking to their skipper Sanath Jayasuriya who is in good nick to blunt the Aussies pace trio. Jayasuriya, may not have the perfect technique to counter the Aussies paceman,but the left hander has the reputation of destroying acclaimed attacks on his day with his devastating strokes.

Vice captain Marvan Atapattu and veteran Aravinda de Silva who are technically sound players together with Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Russell Arnold will have to shoulder the batting for the Lankans.

It will undoubtedly be a testing time especially for the Lankan top order of Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Sangakkara and De Silva against the renowned Aussies pace trio. They should be looking to survive the initial overs and frustrate the medium pacers who very often make inroads early in the innings.

With already signs that the wicket at the Premadasa Stadium is becoming drier and more and more condusive to spin the Lankans may include off spinner Kumar Dharmasena(at the expense of Upul Chandana) as well in their starting line up.

Dharmasena who also has the ability to bowl inside the 15 overs will be a handful against the Aussies who have an inherent weakness against the slow bowlers.

Champion off spinner Muttah Muralitharan who loves to play against the Aussies will be Sri Lankas' trumph card as the Islanders plan to choke the strong Aussies batting line-up with their spinners.With Jaysuriya and Aravinda de Silva able to add variety to the attack the Aussies are certain to be caught in a spin on a dusty turning track.

Man to man the Aussies have everything to match the Lankans. A strong and dependable batting line up, an explosive opener, a world class spinner, a lethal pace attack backed up by a brilliant fielding side.

The only factor that will go against the Kangaroos would be the dry, grassless Premadasa wicket and the large support from the home crowd. However in a one day game of this nature anything could happen although the scales are slightly tilted in favour of the host nation.

The sounds of beating drums and blowing trumphets together with the cheering and jeering from the thousands of spectators will be the order of the day when Sri Lanka and Australia, two of the best one day teams in the world battle it out under floodlights for a place in the ICC Champions trophy final.

No problems with the team says Pakistan Manager
By Bernie Wijesekera
"Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. There is no difference among the players. They are well-knit. Our batting failed to live upto expectations in the first match against Sri Lanka. It was one of the rare days," said Manager Saeed, in an interview with The Sunday Times, whilst the team was practising at the NCC grounds, on September 19.

" You can see to yourself, how they are training. This could happen to any team. In an overs game when you fall into a rut, it's doubly difficult to get back." The team missed the services of Inzamam ul Haq. He could have torn any attack apart when on the move. He was sidelined due to a heel injury. Haq will return home for an operation and will miss the test series against Australia. The first test match will be played here on October 3, at the P. Sara Stadium.

Rumours are afloat that some key players want to pull out before the Aussie test. Nonsense. Only Wasim Akram has asked permission to lay off due to fatigue as he needs a rest. Wasim has done yeoman service for Pakistan cricket, as a great bowling all-rounder. The PCB, has agreed to his request. There is a heavy calendar ahead besides the two-test series against Australia.

This writer witnessed the stupendous performance of Wasim in the '92 World Cup Final against England at the MCG (Australia). The team led by Imran Khan won the final match, thanks to Wasim when he broke through the English middle order when the game was slipping away.

There are two full tours to Zimbabwe and S. Africa, before the World Cup in S. Africa in February 2003. Don't you think Pakistan has a better variety in their armour than many other countries to exploit the conditions?

Pakistan would like to play hard, always prefer to play against stiff opposition. The players will give of their best, said skipper Waqar Younis who was fit and strong after a gruelling practice session. Will give the Aussies a good run here. The boys are determined. Special emphasis was paid by Physio Dennis John Michael Wright to fielding.

Bearded lefthanded opener Saeed Anver was seen running like a hare, while strongly built 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akthar was a picture of himself despite working in humid conditions.

The attack looks good even without Akram-Waqar, Akthar, Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmud, joined by spinners Saqlain Mustaq, Afridi etc. Much will depend on how well the batsmen apply themselves with better application and concentration. The Aussie look a well-knit all round side and are top of the world in the established ladder, too. They have the edge in batting.

England - India grudge match today
By Aubrey Kuruppu
With the ICC Champions Trophy tournament rushing headlong towards its final stages, the focus of attention will undoubtedly shift to today's, England Vs India game and then, five day's later, to the greatest of all one day battles - Sri Lanka Vs Australia.

For Hussain's team, this will be a grudge match: a repeat of that Lord's final in July when the team ran up a massive 326 only to have the smile of smug satisfaction erased from their faces consequent to a charmingly aggressive charge by India's youth brigade represented by Yuvaraj and Kaif. That defeat would have taken some time to live down, as England and her multitude of fans and spectators must have thought (even as I did) that having disposed of Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag, it was all over bar the shouting. Subsequent events showed over thoughts and predictions to be wide off the mark.

One way of assessing relative merits and strength is to see how teams have fared against a common foe. By that token the Englishman are ahead on points. Led by Hussain and Trescothick, the Englishmen batted splendidly to post the second highest total upto now. Then the irresistible Hoggard and the under-valued Irani cut a swathe through the Zimbabwean ranks.

A late spurt by skipper Streak, largely at the expense of debutante Blackwell, could but put a slight glass on the African nation's performance. India, by contrast, had a devil of a time putting the upstarts in their place. Kaif shone once more making his first ODI hundred. However the wily flower (Andy of course) reprieved early on by a causal Nehra took the fight to the Indians with a masterful 145, as India barely came through.

Today, India by virtue of its long and distinguished line up of batters has the edge over England. The latter's batting is too reliant on a few players. To add to their woes Nick Knight touted as top-class one day player, seems to have lost his striking ability.

Kumble and Harbhajan are streets ahead of Snap and Blackwell and, on a slow turner, they could be the ones to perform. England's fielding all round is probably the smarter but in a 'mind-game' the Flectcher Hussain combination could upstage Wright and Ganguly working in tandem.

Gray at Royal Assembly
Evergreen Eddie I. Gray, old Royalist and Olympic boxer is here again on a short holiday from Melbourne, Australia. Gray was invited by the present Principal of Royal, Lakshman Gomes, to address the students at an assembly at the College Hall, on September 18 before the start of the school sessions.

Eddie had many first on and off the field for his Alma Mater as a versatile sportsman, administrator. He was the President of the ABA, Secretary of the NOC and a referee-cum-judge (AIBA).

Gray joined Royal in 1928 as a first former said, " if I have achieved something in life today - I owe to my parents, my school and teachers. Thirdly, my country - Sri Lanka. I am an ardent old Royalist until my last breath. It was at Royal I made my mark as a sportsman, that paved the way to stardom."

He told the young audience to respect the teachers, elders and adhere to the rules at all times, be it on and off the field. In the past Royal has made a name in any walk of life. In the 1948 Olympics The National team had three Royalists for the Wembley Olympics - late Alex Obeysekera, John de Saram and myself. It was at these games that late Duncan White won a "Silver" for the country. - B.W.

Back to Top  Back to Sports  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.