Fiery Vaas brings Bangladesh to their knees
Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushanta Joseph Chaminda Vaas. Phew. Just pronouncing his name right can reduce a grown man to tears. But ask batsmen who have been at the receiving end of his late inswingers and they would dismiss the task as piffling in comparison. On Friday, it was the turn of Bangladesh to receive the Vaas treatment, the Sri Lankan left-arm quick blasting out the first three wickets with the first three balls of the game. A hat-trick to kick things off, followed by two more wickets brought the Bangladesh side to their knees, bundling them out for just 124. In a natural progression, the Sri Lankan batsmen wasted no time or energy in sprinting to 125 in 21.1 overs and sealing an emphatic 10-wicket win.
When they won the toss and put Bangladesh in, Sri Lanka would have hoped to give Prabath Nissanka, who replaced Pulasthi Gunaratne, a good shot at the Bangladesh batsmen. Vaas, sending down the first over, however, had other ideas.
The first ball, a late in-dipper, was too good for Hannan Sarkar and the timber was disturbed. The second delivery, pitching just short of a length and getting too big on Mohammad Ashraful saw a simple return catch being popped up. The field then closed in, no doubt offering newcomer Ehsanul Haq some kind words of advice as he faced up to take the hat-trick ball. More nervous than a schoolgirl on prom night, Haq stuck his bat out tentatively as a well pitched up Vaas delivery kissed the outside edge and sped into the waiting hands of Mahela Jayawardene in the slip cordon.
Vaas was unstoppable as he began his celebratory run, arms spread wide like an eagle soaring high on an eddy.
And what a high it must have been for the good Christian from Mattumagala, who once admitted a childhood desire to become a catholic priest. Well, the church's loss ended up being cricket's gain as Vaas became the first ever cricketer to take three wickets off the first three deliveries of a one-day international. Vaas' hat-trick was the third in World Cup history, after Chetan Sharma's effort against the Kiwis in '87 and Saqlain Mushtaq against Zimbabwe in 1999. He also becomes the third person in one-day history to take two hat-tricks joining Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq.
Not sated, Vaas trapped Sanwar Hossain in front of the stumps off the fifth ball of the first over at the end of which the Bangla tigers were 5/4. From that position, they simply did not have it in them to effect a recovery.
Despite the honest, lusty hitting of Alok Kapali, who made 32 from 37 balls (2 fours and a six), skipper Khaled Mashud's battling knock of 20 from 67 balls and Mashrafe Mortaza's late flurry of 28 off 23 balls, the minnows could only manage 124 all out from 31.1 overs.
Of course, even this would not have been possible if Prabath Nissanka and Dilhara Fernando had been more disciplined in their length early on.
Where the inexperienced seamers failed, the wily old fox Muttiah Muralitharan (10-3-25-3) cleaned up, kicking in with sharp off breaks and cunning floaters that completely bamboozled the Bangladeshis.
None compared to Vaas, however, who returned 9.1-2-25-6.
A start like that needed a clinical finish to hammer home the advantage in convincing fashion. There's no man in world cricket who can dominate a bowling line-up more emphatically than Sanath Jayasuriya. From the time the first ball was bowled, there was an air of arrogance to the Sri Lankan captain and his opening partner, Marvan Atapattu.
Jayasuriya's trademark on-the-rise drives easily raced off his favoured Kookaburra blade and flew over the infield. Meanwhile, Atapattu, for his part, reminded the world of his batting skills with cover drives that were a classicist's delight.
Shortly after an incongruous break from the action for lunch, Atapattu resumed where he left off, pinging the onside with a ferocious pull off mediumpacer Mashrafe Mortaza. Sanwar Hossain then suffered the same fate as he dropped the ball short and saw it disappear to the mid-wicket fence.
Not to be left out, Jayasuriya too picked up the pace, sweeping Sanwar Hossain effortlessly to the fence just behind square on the leg side. Soon after he clattered his first six, pulling Alok Kapali with immense power to bring up his half-century.
In the 22nd over, Bangladesh's misery was eventually cut short. The Sri Lankans completed a handsome 10-wicket win. Unusually, Atapattu with 69 outscored Jayasuriya who had 54 to his name.
As much as Sri Lanka are emerging as the team to watch in this 2003 World Cup, Bangladesh look to be the team to avoid. After being dismissed by a Canadian team comprised largely of amateurs - Austin Codrington, who snared five wickets, earns his bread working as a plumber - Bangladesh have yet again put in a performance that will make their coach fear for his job.
But don't dwell too long on Bangladesh today. They will hopefully get their due in time. Today, though, was the day of Chaminda Vaas. And no one who was at the City Oval will ever forget that. Just to make doubly sure, the authorities have given Vaas the privilege of planting a tree on the banks of this pretty ground, an honour given to batsmen scoring centuries and bowlers taking five wickets. "No, I've never planted a tree in my life before," said Vaas at the end of the game. But yes, he has bowled Sri Lanka to glory before, and you can be sure he will do so again.