ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 22

From the fancied to nothing

On October 14, Sri Lankans were cock-a-hoop, after they destroyed the West Indians in the last of the qualifying games of the ICC Champions Trophy. Reigning Champs, a team currently in good form, Brian Lara’s men could not reach three figures as a unit and the Sri Lankans were being touted as a team who could carry away the trophy.

Ten days later, as they trooped onto Indian soil in Ahmedabad, for the last occasion on this tour to congratulate the South Africans, their chances had blown away. Young Fervez Mahroof rocked the Windies with six wickets – the best performance in the tournament. From then it has been downhill in the next three games, with the last against the Proteas being the worst. Yes, it can be a cruel game! There is much to learn from every experience and that is what Mahroof has to remember.

This tournament is such that a team cannot drop their guard even for a period of four or five overs. The farourites Australia would have realized that after the game against the West Indians. Chasing a not very big target of two hundred and twenty odd they lost wickets at crucial stages which helped the West Indians to keep coming back. Poor shot selection and a run out were the causes of the dismissals. Now they are fighting to stay in the competition.

The same happened to the Sri Lankans. They should have got past Pakistan, particularly after the manner in which they scored in the initial twenty five overs. Into the thirty fourth over they were 171 for 3 wickets. What happened in the hour that followed took the game away from Sri Lanka and as if transpired a place in the semi final too. The 254 they scored proved to be inadequate as Abdul Razak made merry in the end and Pakistan romped home with overs to spare.

This tournament todate has also proved that at present there is not much difference in strength amongst seven teams. That is in one day cricket. Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa have all got sufficient ability to defeat any opposition on the day. Having to battle against the playing surfaces and conditions has also added another dimension, to test the players.

As a result the first team to qualify to compete in the last four was New Zealand. Not too many cricket fans would have had their money on the Black Caps to get there. They did so by playing intelligent cricket against South Africa and Pakistan. Their leader Stephen Fleming became the captain to lead his country in most number of ODI’s. It was the two innings that he played which laid the platform for the team’s victories. On these types of pitches, where run scoring is laborious, numbers one, two and three play a huge part. One of them must bat well into the second half of the innings and pile a seventy five plus score.

A general analysis shows that it was the batting that let them down. In the first defeat to Pakistan they should have scored 25 – 30 more runs. In the second defeat to Pakistan they got nowhere near the South African score of 219 runs. The second game exposed one of Sri Lanka’s continued weaknesses – inability to play the moving ball. The nine wickets to be captured by the bowlers was the combined responsibility of, Pollock (2), Ntini (2), Nel (3), Kallis (1), and Kemp (1). Recognized left arm spinner Robin Peterson was not tried for even one single over. It is now common knowledge that when the ball seams around Sri Lankan batsmen fail.

That is part of their present problem. The other and main concern is the lack of two bowlers to deliver at the death. The ideal is to have quick bowlers who can deliver pin point accurate Yorkers, well disguised slower deliveries and straight short of a good length deliveries that rise upto about rib cage height.

Lasith Malinga fits the bill upto a point. Vaas has dropped in pace now and looks better finishing his overs early. Veteran, experienced and highly successful spinners Muralitharan and Jayasuriya seem to be happy to finish their overs before the last half-a-dozen when the slog begins. It does not leave too many options. On this issue it will have to be, back to the drawing board, before the next ODI assignments.


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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.