|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
October 17, 2006
Just when we feared that the closest we were going to get to an entertaining contest was the public hand-bagging between Malcolm Speed and Lalit Modi, the Champions Trophy sparked into life with a thrilling clash between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, a tussle eventually won by the thrashing blade of Abdul Razzaq to seal a victory for Pakistan's spirit and unity.
When Mohammad Yousuf (49) allowed the red mist to descend and was foolishly run out off a misfield, Sri Lanka appeared to have landed a crucial blow with 161 for 5 in the 35th over. Poor Bob Woolmer, his locks greying with each wave of controversy that has engulfed his team in recent weeks, dropped his head into his hands in despair.
But Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal edged Pakistan nearer as Sri Lanka struggled with Jaipur's heavy evening dew, and then Razzaq exploded in the final five overs of the innings, signalling the start of a sprint home with a majestic flat six off Lasith Malinga that tilted the game toward Pakistan. A few minutes later, it was all over in a whirr of boundary-hitting.
It was a wonderful performance from a depleted team still recovering from the shockwaves of the previous day's drugs scandal - not to mention the recent captaincy conundrum and the Oval ball-tampering fiasco. They showed character in the first innings after Sanath Jayasuriya teed-off with 48 from 35 balls, restricting Sri Lanka to 253, and then battled valiantly throughout the run chase, eventually winning over the hearts of an impassioned Jaipur crowd.
Sri Lanka's ten-match winning run was ended by an error-strewn performance, dashing hopes of a record-breaking sequence. They played good cricket in patches, in particular at the start of their innings after winning the toss and during the middle overs while in the field when the spinners clamped down on the run rate, but in the end they were left ruing their batsmen's failure to capitalise on good starts and two crucial dropped catches.
Five out of the top six scored between 31 and 48. Their recent successes have been built around century-makers, but in this game too many of their batsmen sold their wickets cheaply. If that was not bad enough, Sri Lanka's two best catchers had off-days: Mahela Jayawardene dropped a catch off Imran Farhat in the slips and then Tillakaratne Dilshan spilled Razzaq at backward point just before the final blitzkrieg.
Sri Lanka, hot favourites before this game, must now regroup fast and win their final two games to qualify for the semi-finals. Jayawardene refused to be despondent afterwards, praising his players for their character and effort in the field, but he knows that they must be more ruthless and not squander the initiative like they did tonight. In fairness, the conditions were loaded against them when the dew turned the ball into a bar of soap.
Pakistan, meanwhile, can revel in their fine victory. To win without their two frontline pace bowlers and their captain, against a super-confident Sri Lanka team that was fully acclimatised to the conditions, was a magnificent performance. Just how much momentum it has given them it remains to be seen, but every other team in the tournament knows that a buoyant and unified Pakistan side is a very dangerous beast.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondentFeeds: Charlie Austin
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the day from the CLT20 game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings