the killer punch!
By Marlon Fernandopulle
It was a year filled with promise and expectations
where Sri Lanka tasted success and defeat in an equal manner, cherished
an ecstatic moment and climbed to second place in the ICC's one-day
Sri Lankans under skipper Marvan Atapattu played 29 ODI's and won
20 and in the process pocketed two trophies the Asia cup and the
Paktel trophy and missed out in the ICC championship trophy. However
in tests Sri Lanka recorded just four wins, lost five from 11 and
also witnessed a change at the top with Atapattu as expected being
entrusted with the test captaincy from Hashan Tilakaratne during
the early part of the year. Amidst the successes and defeats Sri
Lanka’s champion off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan went pass
Courtney Walsh’s test bowling record and held it for some
time before Australian leg spinner Shane Warne overtook him later
in the year.
in Sri Lanka
It was a series that was so close and yet so far. Sri
Lanka had the world test champions down on their knees in the first
two tests but failed to deliver the knockout punch. Despite enjoying
healthy first innings leads of 161 runs in the first test and 91
runs in the second test, Sri Lanka lost both games, much to the
disappointment of their cricket fans. In the first game Sri Lanka
went down by 197 runs while the second test went down to the wire
as Sri Lanka lost by 27 runs. The world champions then crushed the
Lankans in the third and final test by 121 runs to take the series
3-0.Following the series whitewash skipper Hashan Tilakaratne resigned
as captain and the national selectors gave the reins as expected
to Marvan Atapattu.
high point of the Sri Lanka-Australia series was the battle between
the two great spinners Muralitharan and Shane Warne.Both spinners
enjoyed a highly successful series with Murali claiming 28 wickets
while Warne finished with 26 wickets. Incidentally both spinners
passed the magical 500 wickets in this series. Warne was the first
to the magical mark reaching it in the first test at Galle while
Murali reached his milestone in his hometown Kandy in the second
test. However the off spinners joy was short lived as his new delivery,
the doosra was reported by ICC match referee Chris Broad soon after
the third test match.
Sri Lanka was expected to give a fight in the one dayers, Atapattu’s
men failed to live up to expectations. After winning the second
one dayer to level the five match series 1-1,the Lankans went down
in the next two games before beating an under strength Australian
team in the final game.
Lanka in Zimbabwe
As expected Sri Lanka annihilated a second string Zimbabwe
side to win the test series 2-0 and the one dayers 5-0.The new look
Zimbabwe side went down by an innings and 254 runs in the first
test and a similar margin in the second test. Most of the Lankan
batsman chalked up big scores with Kumar Sangakkara and skipper
Atapattu compiling double centuries in the test matches.
high point of the Zim tour was when Lankan spinner Muralitharan
picked up his record breaking 520th wicket to become the leading
wicket taker in the world. The entire island erupted that Saturday
afternoon (May 8th) when Muralitharan had tail ender Mluleki Nkala
caught by Mahela Jayawardene.On his return to the island Muralitharan
was given a hero's welcome and driven in an open motorcade from
the Katunayake Airport to Colombo.
Lanka in Australia
The Sri Lankans who toured Australia and played two test
matches in the Northern districts of Cairns and Darwin lost the
series 1-0.With the withdrawal of star spinner Muralitharan due
to adverse comments made by the Australian Prime Minister, the Lankans
found the going tough.
the Lankan bowlers rose to the task to bowl out the Australians
for low scores, but again it was the batsman who failed to deliver.
Sri Lanka lost the first test by seven wickets and held on grimly
to save the second test.
Africa in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka enjoyed a highly successful series against the
South Africans.Graeme Smith’s men were beaten 1-0 in the two
test series after the home side recorded a 313 run victory in the
second test match. Mahela Jayawardene compiled a fine double century
in the first test while Chaminda Vaas completed a fine series to
take the player of the series. The South Africans were drubbed in
the five one dayers as Sri Lanka won 5-0.Wicket keeper batsman Kumar
Sangakkara continued his good form during the year to score heavily
in the one day series and claim the man of the series award.
Sri Lanka who hosted the Asia cup emerged winners by beating
India by 25 runs in the final. The Lankans won five of the six games
in the Asia cup, which was played among India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Hong Kong and the UAE.The hosts only loss, was to India by 4 runs
in a preliminary round game. In the final the Lankans defended a
modest total of 227 runs with Sanath Jayasuriya picking up wickets.
Jayasuriya picked up the man of the series award while Atapattu
who scored a half century and marshalled his troops successfully
picked up the man of the match in the final.
The joint holders of the trophy Sri Lanka had a disappointing
tour in their attempt to regain the championship. In the first round
they got the better of a weakened Zimbabwe team but lost to hosts
England in the quarterfinals. The game which was played over two
days due to rain saw England score 251 for 7 to which the Lankans
replied with a pathetic 95 for 5 wickets when rain intervened again.
England was declared winners by 49 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Sri Lanka in Pakistan
Sri Lanka chalked up their second one day triumph when they won
the Paktel triangular tournament that featured Pakistan and Zimbabwe
in Pakistan.Sri Lanka defeated Zimbabwe once, lost to Pakistan twice
before beating the host nation by 115 runs in the final at the Gaddaffi
Stadium. Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara hit half centuries
while Sanath Jayasuriya hit 49 and picked up 5 for 17 in the finals.
the two test series Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by 201 runs but
lost the second test by 6 wickets. Sanath Jayasuriya silenced all
his critics with a double cen tury and century to take away the
man of the series award.
It was a year of ecstasy and agony for Muttiah Muralitharan.
He was reported for his doosra, broke the world bowling record held
by Courtney Walsh, refused to tour Australia and finally was relieved
after the ICC found out that it was not only Murali but 99% of the
bowlers were above the current tolerance levels. Now languishing
behind Shane Warne by over 30 wickets the Lankan spinner will have
to wait patiently for at least a couple of years before he regains
his world record.