July 5, 2000

Morale boosting victory for Sri Lanka in Singer Triangular Series

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Sri Lanka may have lost the test series against Pakistan but they remain one the world's best sides in the world when it comes to one-day cricket. In front of a full house in Galle International Stadium they comfortably defeated Pakistan by five wickets.

Whilst some may deride the one day game as Mickey Mouse cricket, the importance of the victory should not be underestimated. The Sri Lankan's have had a difficult month, they don't like losing and desperately needed a morale boosting victory. They will now face South Africa tomorrow with renewed zeal and confidence.

Speaking afterwards Dav Whatmore was clearly a relieved man: "That was a game we really needed to win. It's been a month since we have a victory in any form of the game so it was very important for us. This win today has down wonders for the confidence and could be the springboard for getting back to the kind of one day form that Sri Lanka is accustomed to."

Nuwan Zoysa was the key to their victory. An amicable and modest man he may have been embarrassed when receiving his man of the match award, but he thoroughly deserved it for a penetrative seven over opening spell in which he picked up three top order wickets.

The skies were overcast in the morning and the threat of rain prevented a scheduled start. When the covers were removed Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss and had no hesitation in asking Pakistan to bat first on a wicket that may not have been damp, but certainly contained enough moisture.

Winning the toss is though only one part of the story. Sanath Jayasuriya has won every single one on the tour so far, but prior to today had never won the game. The bowlers still need to bowl the ball in the right place and the gods have to be looking on kindly.

The match began in sensational fashion. Saeed Anwaar (20) played his first delivery from Chaminda Vaas into the on side and motioned for a run. He didn't though expect Imran Nazir (0) to set off like a hyper tense sprint champion. When Nazir eventually realised that Saeed wasn't running, he was half way down the wicket and was forced to look on in dismay as Mahela Jayawadene threw down the stumps.

Boosted by the kind of gift usually reserved for Christmas, the Sri Lankan bowlers started to settle into their rhythm. Nuwan Zoysa was the more penetrative of the two, beating the bat on a couple of occasions, but it was Chaminda Vaas who broke through next when he deceived Shahid Alfridi (5) with a slower delivery.

It was then time for Zoysa to get stuck in. In the very next over he extracted some extra bounce and had Yousuf Youhana (0) caught at the wicket. He then incapacitated Inzamam-ul-Haq (83*), who had just struck Vaas for two bellowing boundaries. Like a modern day Goliath, Inzamam collapsed to the ground in pain as a rising delivery thundered into his inner groin. Despite the best efforts of the Pakistan physio, he was forced to retire.

Three wickets down and the new ball just 12 over old, Pakistan were forced to expose their talented all-rounders too early in the innings. In the same over Abdur Razzaq (0) was perhaps a little unlucky to be adjudged LBW and then Saeed Anwaar popped up an easy return catch for Zoysa just eight balls later.

Deep in the mire at 5-43, Inzamam strode back to the crease to join his captain. Moin Khan (6) threatened one of those famous rearguard knocks for which he is famous, but was well caught at deep square by Mahela Jayawardene off his equally famous, and quite unique leg-side shovel.

His concentration perhaps stirred by his earlier ordeal, Inzamam then resurrected the Pakistan innings in partnership with Azhar Mahmood (14) and Waqar Younis (22). Undefeated to the end, it was Inzamam at his primordial best. He may have hit only six boundaries but he hit the ball with enormous power and went through at least two bats.

He was however not reckless, appreciated the need for him to stay at the wicket and calmly consolidated the innings before becoming more expansive later on. His cause was helped by some fine batting from Waqar Younis, an innings that included one outrageous reverse pull and two other lofted boundaries, and by the strangely defensive attitude of the Sri Lankans.

When Waqar Younis came to wicket after the dismissal of Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan were 7-84 and many in the ground were contemplating a few hours on the beach. But Sanath Jayasuriya was content to allow his spinners to wile away rather than recall Nuwan Zoysa.

He eventually returned to the attack in the 42nd over and soon bowled Waqar Younis, as the tailender try to leg glance a delivery that must have pitched a foot outside the off stump.

In reply to Pakistan's 166 Sri Lanka lost two quick wickets to Waqar Younis. Avishka Gunwardena (0), who was back in the side after a mountain of runs for the A team, walked straight in front of an inswinging delivery and Sanath Jayasuriya (11) opened the face of his bat, was surprised by some extra bounce and was caught behind.

Marvan Attapattu (62), fresh from his unbeaten double century in the final test, was joined at the crease by a rejuvenated Mahela Jayawardene (14) and the pair added 46 for the third wicket before the later flicked lazily at a full length delivery from Razzaq and was caught at mid-wicket.

His wicket though gave an opportunity for Kumar Sangakkara (35), the debutante, to show that he has the head for international cricket and also the technique. A down to earth man , who is both intelligent and mature, he was unfazed by the situation and was immediately off the mark with a fluid square drive.

Displaying some fine attacking shots, including an imperious back foot drive off Mohammad Akram and a lofted straight drive off Arshad Khan, he put on 56 with Marvan Attapattu and the pair effectively sealed the match for Sri Lanka. When Marvan Attapattu slogged across the line against Razzaq it was too late for Pakistan and Russel Arnold quickly finished the match with a breezy cameo.