ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai

Sri Lanka let down sublime Jayawardene

Sri Lanka were so feeble on the field that they rendered absolutely inconsequential a magnificent hundred from Mahela Jayawardene

Sambit Bal at the Wankhede Stadium

April 2, 2011

Comments: 78 | Text size: A | A

Mahela Jayawardene stroked six boundaries before he had reached fifty, India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, April 2, 2011
Grace on a cricket field - Mahela Jayawardene © AFP

The World Cup hasn't been blessed with grand finals. From a distance now, 1975 looks much closer than it actually was; 1983 was memorable because it produced a stunning upset; and 1992 was sealed with two magic balls from Wasim Akram. Only 1987 produced a tense finish, but it was played between two middling teams. To the dispassionate eye, the regret about 2011 will be that Sri Lanka, so clinical until the final, were so off the boil on the field that the biggest chase in a World Cup final became a canter in the end.

Sri Lanka had the distinction of chasing the highest score to win a World Cup. In 1996 they were generously assisted by the dew in Lahore as they knocked off 241 with plenty to spare. While dew was a factor on Saturday night too, Sri Lanka were so feeble on the field that 274 felt like 50 short. Kumar Sangakkara was full of grace in conceding India's superiority in the contest, but when he said they would have needed 350 to challenge India, he might have been reflecting on his team's out-cricket.

It was a pity because it rendered absolutely inconsequential a magnificent hundred from Mahela Jayawardene.

In fact, it could be said that there were two Sri Lankas in the final in Mumbai. There was Jayawardene: beautiful, balanced and inspired. And then there was the Sri Lanka on the field: sloppy, uncoordinated, listless and a bundle of nerves. India were worthy winners because they carried more class and depth, but Sri Lanka's inability to stretch them despite the early tremors caused by Lasith Malinga robbed the final of the tension it deserved.

Jayawardene must feel hard done by because the world remembers only winners. His team-mates didn't drop as many catches as Pakistan did in the semi final - in fact, Tillakaratne Dilshan grabbed a stunner off his own bowling to dismiss Virat Kohli - but they leaked so many runs in the field that the India batsmen, once they settled down, were never made to work hard.

This was in dramatic contrast to the Indian fielding effort that peaked on Saturday, after gradually improving through the knockout stages. Now trimmer and considerably fitter, Yuvraj Singh, back in his old position at point, was electric: and, along with Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli, he formed an offside cordon the Sri Lankan top order found impossible to breach. They starved Sri Lanka of singles by attacking the ball and cut off certain boundaries with spectacular dives. Even the fast bowlers, usually liabilities in the outfield, seemed to have acquired springs. Zaheer Khan saved a couple of fours at third man, and Sreesanth sprinted and slid at square leg to stop another.

While India rose well above themselves, Sri Lanka, though never among the most sparkling fielding sides, sunk way below their usual standards, and the combined difference could well have been 40 runs. This piece of comic fielding summed up the Sri Lankan performance: Gautam Gambhir sliced Muttiah Muralitharan straight to point where Chamara Kapugedera fumbled the ball, allowing a single, and then fired in a throw wide of the bowler to concede another run.

With the ball too, Sri Lanka were below par. Malinga produced two huge wickets when it was least expected. He hasn't been a threat with the new ball throughout the World Cup and to nail Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar in his first spell was a huge bonus. But Malinga couldn't do the job expected from him and MS Dhoni and Yuvraj picked him off easily when he returned for what could have been a match-turning spell.

Murali was perhaps not fully fit and got easily annoyed with the wet ball and Suraj Randiv, who was brought in as cover for Murali but played ahead of Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath, was the most economical bowler of the day but never threatened to produce a wicket. Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Perera more than compensated for the absence of Angelo Mathews with the bat but they were clearly ill equipped as lead bowlers. Sometimes in seeking to address the conditions, teams veer away from their strengths.

What a let-down this effort was for Jayawardene, who produced an innings worthy of a final. The world feels a lovely place when he gets going, but beauty is nothing without purpose and substance. His was a beautifully structured innings that first lifted Sri Lanka from a sluggish start and then gradually led them towards a challenging total. As ever, Jayawardene, who had had an indifferent World Cup so far, persuaded the ball through gaps affectionately, using the pace that the pitch offered and creating space with gentle wrist work. His first fifty came off 49 balls, and the second, without any noticeable shift in gear, in 35, with the century coming with two superbly executed fours off Zaheer Khan.

This was his second virtuoso innings in knockout matches of successive World Cups. In 2007, his unbeaten hundred against New Zealand had come in similar circumstances (he came in to bat at 67 for 2 then, as against 60 for 2 today) and had carried his team to the final.

On Saturday, he became the first centurion in a losing cause in a World Cup final. How empty it must feel.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 78 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (April 5, 2011, 21:27 GMT)

I would say Mahela's innings was one of the greatest one could ever hope to witness on a cricket field.....period......and in the end the BIG fish ate the SMALL fish....period......Hope you understand what I mean 'cause the consequences of the defeat are starting to unveil...........

Posted by Lakmal on (April 5, 2011, 8:42 GMT)

Thank u mahela for the epic century.otherwise it could have been at least 210/10.Feel very sorry for our team.But congrats India.On that day they deserved the cup.It is high time to get rid of our all time great middle order heros thilan,chamara couple,and our high ranked bowling legends kula and ajantha.There are plenty of domestic stars like chandimal,bhanuka,nadeera.there are some very good bowlers like Nuwan pradeep (u can see him playing in the IPL),shaminda eranga (clocks 150kph plus),and a swann-like Sachitra Senanayake (a freakish tweaker of the bowl;a good off spinner). GET THEM.. THEY ARE THE FUTURE...!!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 5, 2011, 4:02 GMT)

Sanga though a brillian bat has been the cause of mishaps in WC history for SL more than in one occasion. He missed vital chances in the 2003 worldcup where SL were semifinalist and it allowed Australia to go to the final and this time his Zombi like trance and motionless captaincy and negative body language did it all for SL. Remember how NZ fought SL in the semifinal and how they placed the fielding in the non power play overs. Sanga's ego never let's him learn anything fast.

Posted by prashant on (April 4, 2011, 14:51 GMT)

Hi Sambit,

This message is out of context of this article but I want you to consider and take ahead if possible. ICC is considering having 12 teams for WC'15 and they are thinking of 96 format which was essentially bad. I have a suggestion which fulfills many requirements:

1) Divide teams into 2 groups of 6 and have round robin first. 2) Select 3 from each team and bring them to super league in which 6 teams will play round robin. 3) Top 4 out of this 6 will proceed to knockouts.

What it serves 1) 12 teams will participate but none of the league matches will be redundant as competition is to select 3 out of 6 and not 4 out of 6 as in 96. 2) Ensures associate nations will get 5 each but the overall percentage of minnow matches will be less. 3) Super league will ensure every good team plays against each other and will compete fiercely to proceed further 4) Most importantly, there will be 48 matches which will please ICC and ESPN-Star, 96 edition had only 37 matches.

Thanks, Prashant

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 4, 2011, 14:46 GMT)

I was waiting 4 this moment in my life!! I can die with happiness now!!may the ghosts of 2003 Wcup rest in peace!!A huge monkey is off the back now!!! as it is said that nothing succeeds like success I have some fascinating facts- -sri lanka lost both Wcup finals when they were outperformed by the wicketkeeper.Even in their T20 cup 2009 final,kamran demolished their bowling, -india won both ODI Wcups on saturday, -india started the campaign with a 4 and ended it with a 6, -india played their last and first match against the 2 teams with oustered then in 2007 Wcup, -Shane Warne emerged as "PAUL" of cricket, -sri lanka didn't beat any Wcup winning side in this Wcup, -mahela scored ton in a losing cause, -highest ever run chase in final, -274 was enough 4 srilanka 2 win..but they saw rajni & ghajini in crowd.. -home side jinx broken, -gambhir top scored under MS in both finals of 2007 t20 and this one, -srilanka drinking the tea in plate...coz india took away the cup.LOL

Posted by Kasun on (April 4, 2011, 13:21 GMT)

The sluggish middle order put a tremendous pressure on Dilshan, Sanga and Mahela that caused Sri Lanka around 40, 50 runs short. Jayawardene performed a significant innings under pressure though he finished in the losing side. Sri lanka should work wisely bring in youngsters and consistent, aggressive players ahead of up coming years.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 4, 2011, 12:18 GMT)

Mr Sambit Bal I think you are totally wrong when you say sri lanka are not one of the most sparkling fielding sides. They have always been the best in asia when it comes to fielding in fact they are right up their with the likes of south africa , austrailia and new zealand.One bad game in the field does not justify what you have said of them not being a sparkling fielding. The fact of the matter is that india peaked at the right time and those who know the india cricket team will tell you that on a good day they can do no wrong. On saturday they were perfect in all departments and this created pressure on the sri lankans. From what I saw the pressure certainly got to sri lanka and when this happens some times you make unfortunate mistakes that you would normally not make. These things happen in cricket and unfortunately it caused sri lanka to be on the losing side of things but I think they will learn from this and bounce back strongly.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 4, 2011, 11:31 GMT)

Rakydubai......India won because not india was that much tallented on that night to defeaqt sri lanka. I cannot see a problem of pitch. But mostly due to the fact Sanga gave up the match. Why he introduced Kulasekera at 46th over when his economy rate was 6.81. Why Kulasekera dropped catch, why Sanga could not hold the ball and runout Gautham. Why Mahela was very upset at the last few overs. There are lots of un answered questions. Definelty it was a some factor which is lead to the Sri Lankan defeat. So there is no need to aregue like 'Come on man...' which is indian way of argue.....If that factor did not play a role Today Sri Lanka is the champions...

Posted by Fauzer on (April 4, 2011, 11:15 GMT)

Lost for words to describe Mahela's innings. Thank you for the inspiration you give to millions of cricket lovers Mahela. It gives me goosebumps each time I think about the innings and its context.

Weldone to Sangakkara and the boys. Playing in the finals ain't nothing to be scoffed at. In fact Sri Lanka has been in the finals of 3 world cups in the last few years (including the T20 WC in England), not bad for a little island in the subcontinent.

Fairwel to the champion Murali. But I feel he played 1 game too many. I think the sentiments got the better of SL selection for the final in pikcing Murali who was clearly handicapped, and it didn't help with his own performace or the morale of the team. Herath would have been a much much better choice instead.

Mathews' injury upset the balance of the team big time. Going into the match, I thought bringing in Kulesekara and Thisara was the right thing to do, and I thought Randiv can hold his own. Alas, not to be.

Congrats India.

Posted by Joseph Roshantha Kingston on (April 4, 2011, 10:27 GMT)

Good One - I agree with what has been said!

I also feel that the first 10 overs in the Sri Lankan innings cost us the game - we had scored only 31! Dilshan or Tharanga should have taken the "Master Blaster's Role", rather than prodding and then getting out - leaving the rest of the batsman under pressure! If we had scored at least 60 runs in the first 10, the game would have been different!

India's fielding too made a huge difference - unbelievable!

Anyway, well-done India for your performance, and all-the-best to Sri Lanka in your future endeavors!

Thank you Murali for all your commitment towards Sri Lankan Cricket for the past 2 Decades!

Well Done, Kumar and the Boys for your splendid performance throughout the WC!

Let's forget the past, and look towards the future!

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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