Lacking 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 rankings.

The 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.

Australia 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.

The 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.

Although 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.

Sri 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.

The 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.

Sri 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.

However 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.

S. 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.

Asia cup
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.

ICC Champions trophy
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.

In 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.

Muttiah Muralitharan
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.


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