September 30, 2002

India and Sri Lanka share the spoils

The sense of déjà vu was palpable throughout the day. Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss again and his batsmen grafted hard for their runs against India's slow bowlers. Then, with the match evenly poised as the floodlights were switched on, distant thunderclaps were followed by streaks of lightening and finally another monsoon downpour, the persistence of which forced the match's abandonment.

When the players were finally forced from the field, shortly after Virender Sehwag had carved a remarkable six over cover, India were in the ascendant on 38 for one after 8.4 overs having earlier restricted Sri Lanka to 222.

Jayasuriya believed Sri Lanka's total to have been sufficient: "We are disappointed as the wicket was getting slower all the time and it would have not been easy to score those runs after the new ball. We had felt that 225-240 was a defendable score."

But Sourav Ganguly disagreed. Asked whether a shared trophy fairly reflected the balance of the game, he said: "No, I don't think so. The wicket was slow but was not turning a great deal and we started well...but you can't do anything when it rains."

Thus the richest purse in the history of cricket, a total of USD $300,000, was split between the two sides in addition to the USD $225,000 already accrued after victories in the pool and semi-final stages. Not bad for two days' soggy cricket.

In the afternoon India had grabbed an early advantage in the game when Jayasuriya finally failed after a remarkable string of scores stretching back to the start of the Morocco Cup last month - 36, 102*, 71, 46, 97, 49, 36, 42 and 74. Indeed, the left-hander looked shocked when he dragged the first ball of the match on to his stumps.

Had Dinesh Mongia held on to a sharp two-handed chance at slip off Kumar Sangakkara in the same Zaheer Khan over, Sri Lanka would have been in far deeper trouble. As it was, Mongia redeemed himself when he caught Marvan Atapattu - asked to bat at number three to allow Sangakkara a chance against the harder ball - off an outswinger from Ajit Agarkar to leave Sri Lanka on 24 for two.

Aravinda de Silva, having already bid his farewell to Sri Lankan fans yesterday, looked set to produce a fitting encore as he launched a thrilling attack in Agarkar's fifth over, smashing five boundaries and stirring a healthy reserve crowd. But De Silva's urge to dominate, exhilarating as it was, proved fatal as he tried to slog-sweep the recalled Anil Kumble over mid-wicket to be dismissed for a 24-ball 27.

Three overs later Sangakkara was run out after being belatedly sent back by Mahela Jayawardene and Sri Lanka, on 71 for four, pulled back onto the defensive. Both Jayawardene and Russel Arnold stagnated as only 66 runs were scored in the next 20 overs.

But, gradually, Jayawardene started to gather momentum, passing fifty for the 15th time in his one-day career. The pair extended their partnership to 118 from 173 balls before Jayawardene top edged a catch into the covers. Arnold then scrambled together some useful late runs with Chaminda Vaas and, in the end, Sri Lanka would have been satisfied with the fact that 95 runs had been scored in the last 15 overs.