ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44

So near but yet so far

Every game in the World Cup counts now. Every opponent will feel the same. The pressure situations have to be completed with purpose. Four teams, Sri Lanka, Australia, West Indies and New Zealand have an added advantage carrying two points to the Super Eghts stage. With the competition being razor edged the tussle for berths to the semi finals could be tight. This means that run rates could come into play and maintaining a high run rate will also be crucial.


The Australians drew first blood in stage one, with a comprehensive win over South Africa. The South Africans had ousted the Aussies from the top position in the ODI rankings a few weeks before the World Cup began. Now, given the opportunity Ricky Ponting’s team got back the months which had slipped from their hands.

It is the manner in which they batted that so impressed. The authoritative manner in which all the top order players go about their business which makes them resemble a team from another league. Another significant factor about those selected to play for Australia is the manner in which they develop and consistently improve. There is no resting on their laurels and continuing on past glory and hanging on with occasional outstanding performance. The batting of Mathew Hayden reflects this factor. Twelve months ago, at the age of thirty six, Hayden was sidelined from the one day side and it looked pretty certain that he would not get back, particularly with the Australian policy of selection, in continuously searching for new blood.


Hayden went back to his workshop – the indoor nets and bowling machine. Worked at his batting, worked at methods of attacking all types of bowlers, worked more at developing fitness, strength and flexibility (he even performs yoga) and has come back a new player. Now, he is a player set to dominate this World Cup. Other players who were not permanent fixtures but now have to play dominant roles, in Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Hogg and Shaun Tait, have taken that step and are proving their worth.

For the Sri Lankans it was an agonizing game against the Proteas. They lost their way in patches and played well in patches and somehow did not look like a team desperate to win. The pitch was not the best for batting and it was necessary for one top order player to play through the innings.

Four batsmen got out by not paying enough respect to the pitch and the opposition bowlers once too often and was run out, leaving Sri Lanka at 98 for 5 wickets. Such a situation puts a team on the back foot and then it is a matter of preparing the innings and not dominating or calling the shots, against the opposition bowlers. The pitch never got much better and even at the death the accent should have been more on accumulating, than attempting to blast the bowling. The South Africans would have paced their innings differently had Sri Lanka got 20 more, but in hindsight that seemed to be the shortfall in terms of runs.
Captain Graeme Smith and the vastly experienced Jacques Kallis played as the situation and the pitch demanded. Although Kallis fell to an irresponsible stroke exposing the South African tail, the manner in which he accumulated 86 runs, was an object lesson on how to bat on such a surface.

Lasith Malinga was brilliant at the end. Had anyone being dozing off to sleep, when Malinga began to strike, sure it would have got them wide eyed and bolt upright and back glued to the TV. Chaminda Vaas gave good support at the other end and a miracle almost happened. In the end, it was so near, yet so far.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.