Pathetic Lankan fielding puts Kiwis on top
Fleming cracks a career best unbeaten 274

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming celebrates his double century during the second day of the first test between the Sri Lanka and New Zealand at P.Sara Stadium yesterday. Pic by Ishara S.Kodikara

Stephen Fleming scored a career-best 274 not out to put New Zealand in a commanding position in the first test against Sri Lanka at P.Sara Stadium yesterday.
Exploiting some sloppy fielding, Fleming struck 28 fours and one six to pass 200 for the first time in his test career to help his side declare on 515 for seven.

Fast bowler Darryl Tuffey then had Marvan Atapattu for a duck to leave the home side on four for one when bad light ended the second day a few minutes early. Dropped twice, Fleming spent just over nine hours at the crease in stifling conditions. It was the second-highest test score by a New Zealander after Martin Crowe's 299.
The lanky left-hander, sometimes criticised for failing to convert good starts into major totals, broke into a huge smile and was hugged by team mate Scott Styris after reaching 200 with a boundary.

Fleming, who now averages more than 76 against Sri Lanka in tests, was well supported by Styris, who hit two sixes and five fours in his 63 before being caught by Chaminda Vaas off spinner Kumar Dharmasena to give the home side a wicket just before the interval. The pair put on 157.

Dharmasena earlier removed Mathew Sinclair for 17, caught by Kumar Sangakkara, after the batsman had been given a life when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Romesh Kaluwitharana on 10. Styris was also dropped twice, on 16 and 57, while Fleming escaped on 121 and 140, with Mahela Jayawardene spilling all four chances in the slips and at gully.

The tourists were (207 for 2 overnight) went to town slowly, but surely, to put themselves in an unassailable position. Sri Lanka had to play six overs before the close, but disaster befell in Tuffey's first over fifth ball from the score board end - 'Mr. Concentration' Marvan Atapattu fell for a duck leg before when the batsman played tentatively forward to a ball that dug in. Chaminda Vaas came in as night watchman to join Jayasuriya. But in Bond's 4th delivery gutsy wind followed rain and play was abandoned for the day.

Today - the third day Sri Lanka has a daunting task to score 315 runs to avert the ignominy of being made to follow on. The Sri Lankans have to take an object lesson anchored by Fleming to stay and play a long innings as the Kiwis will give nothing away.

Yesterday's play got under way in sweltering heat with Fleming on 112 and Sinclair on 4. The New Zealanders were let off the hook when two vital catches went abegging. Fleming survived two chances - at 113 when Nissanka failed to position himself to hold a catch at fine-leg against 'Work-Horse" Vaas who was bowling with much fire from the scoreboard end. Eight runs added to his total when Fleming again, miscued a Nissanka delivery and ballooned the ball. Mahela running back from gully made a valient bid to hold on, but failed and went sprawling on. It was pathetic close-in fielding when the Lankan (spinners) failed to curl on a flat grassless pitch.

Fleming the 'Man of Steel' profiting by these lapses took full control. Playing a typical Geoff Boycott innings he had the skills to smother the Lankan spinners. His motive stay there. Be there and the runs will flow. At lunch they were 288 for 3, with Fleming on 153 in 331 balls (with 15 fours) and Styris on 26. Styris survived a nick at 13 off ''leggie'' Lokkuarachchi when Mahela spilled the catch at slips. In the next over hit the bowler for a six. It was a disappointing day for the Lankans when their bowlers failed miserably and was let down by poor catching too.

Fleming batting in his usual characteristic style went on to score his double century off 382 balls-surpassing his earlier highest also against Sri Lanka 174 n.o., in 1997 at the R. Premadasa Stadium. He played 'Murali' with confidence. Murali playing before his own club fans bowled without much success. His spinning fingers had more roasties in the end. It was only in the 58th over he got his first scalp when he had tailender Robbie Hart for 9.

The flourishing 157 run stand for the fourth wicket between Fleming and Scot Styris had the hapless Lankan fielders running for shelter. This was the most attractive stand in the Kiwi innings. Styris batting with charm and aggression made 63 (with 5 fours and sixes), in his 106 - ball assault. He fell in the deep for a good catch taken by Vaas. The tailenders went for quick runs before the declaration was made.

Eight catches floored
Sri Lanka's fielding was atrocious, with a total of eight clear catches being floored in the innings. Mahela Jayawardene, considered one of the safest pair of hands in the side, was the chief offender, spilling three in the day and four in the innings. He had a nightmare in the field.

During a disastrous morning, when a total of four chances were missed, he juggled a top-edged pull off Fleming to the floor, running back from gully. Kaushal Lokuarachchi was later denied his first Test wicket when a sharp catch failed to stick at first slip.

Jayawardene then failed to get a hand to a thin edge off Styris, who was then on just 14. By the afternoon, his confidence was shattered, and another howler in the slips off Prabath Nissanka followed a handful of fumbles Fleming - the chief beneficiary of Sri Lanka's appalling catching, having been dropped on 10, 121 and 141

Police crush Old Zahirians
By M. Shamil Amit
Police ran circles round the hapless Old Zahirians when they crushed them by a massive 88 points (nine goals and five tries) to nil in the second match of the Caltex Rugby 'A' Division League Tournament rugger match played at the Police grounds yesterday. At the breather the winners led 43-0.

Police who are one of the teams that are not featuring foreign players, which have been allowed by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union showed that they are capable of handling any situation. The opponents that they confronted yesterday were definitely weaker but they never took the game lightly and played it as another game.

The Policeman scored at will planting as much as seven tries in the first half through one each from prop forward Shantha Rohana, scrum half Anjula Silva, number eight Nishantha Welagedera, centres Nilusha Fernando and Champika Thushara and two from flanker T.D. Herath of which four were goaled by fly half Harshana Wijeweera.

Resuming in the second half the Old Zahirians made some sporadic moves and succeeded in getting a penalty in the third minute but it was kicked astray by skipper and fly half Tuan Mannan.That was the only opportunity they got to score. From then onwards it was the Police again who opened scoring through two tries from scrum half Pradeep Wilson and one each from number eight Nishantha Welagedera, centre Ajith Priyantha, flanker T.D. Herath, full back Dhanushka Pubudu and centre Muthusanka Jayawardena of which three were converted by Harshana Wijeweera and two by Dhanushka Pubudu. The game was controlled by Dilroy Fernando.

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