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October 20, 2006
Sri Lanka, led by Upul Tharanga with the bat and Muttiah Muralitharan with the ball, rebounded emphatically from their opening game defeat to fairly thump New Zealand by seven wickets at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. In the process, Group B is now deliciously open with three teams having registered a win.
No deception lay in the margin of victory. New Zealand were strangely flat through the day, despite welcoming back Scott Styris and Shane Bond and also winning the toss. Murali emerging from the mild slumber that has thus far held him hardly helped them. He finished with 4 for 23 from ten artful, often bewitching overs, ensuring that Stephen Fleming, who had won the toss and chosen to bat, would ultimately regret the decision as New Zealand lumbered apathetically to 165.
Murali had only picked up four wickets in four matches previous to this and he didn't arrive till the 26th over. Admittedly, by then the Sri Lankan pacemen had already completed half the job after neither side initially appeared sure how the pitch would play. An adhesive had been used to hold it together and sniffing glue, after all, is said to have uncertain side effects. It resembled a mid-90s Sharjah belter, shiny and showing the merest hint of reflection, and eventually it played like one.
In keeping with Sri Lanka's recent generosity with extras, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga and Fervez Maharoof all began shabbily. Vaas served up three wides first and then three no-balls. Finally, he found his bearings in the fifth over, trapping a scoreless Fleming with one that swooned in instead of darting out. Gradually, they figured out the pitch; keep it straight and wait. With Kumar Sangakkara standing up to Maharoof and Vaas, this was the famed strangle, only with pacers rather than spinners.
New Zealand didn't help matters, starting timidly, their intentions, to pardon a horrible pun, glued to the ground. Their first boundary didn't arrive until the eighth over, Nathan Astle the source with a rudimentary clip off the pads through square leg. Lou Vincent stood up and smacked Maharoof over cover and when Astle gently pushed a graceful drive straight down the ground, New Zealand hinted at waking up from their slumber. Yet, an over later Vincent was gone - a grotesque shot - and New Zealand were neither here nor there at 37 for two.
It got worse. Only Astle held out while the rest refused to - or were unable to - show any intent. The first 20 overs saw seven boundaries and a succession of batsmen looking sheepishly only at themselves for their dismissals; by the time Murali came on his victims were already 80 for 4. Immediately though, he was up to mischief. Batsmen go through entire careers never looking as uncomfortable as Jacob Oram did in the four deliveries he faced from Murali. The last, flighted towards off, dragged him wide before spinning the other way - alas the doosra - and bowling him behind his legs.
More dangerous than Murali is Murali with an early wicket, and so it proved. Flight and pace mixed, variations offered liberally and no quarter given. Runs - never freeflowing - dried up further. Astle's isolated, doomed resistance ended as he top-edged a sweep to deep midwicket. Thereafter the lower-order remained figuratively. Brendon McCullum reverse-swept and failed, and Kyle Mills stood as much chance as a rabbit in the face of oncoming headlights.
Only a last-gasp union of 47 between Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel brought but a shade of respectability to the total. Vettori's improvisation saw him finish unbeaten on 46, taking 19 off Vaas's last over. His late dabs and extra cover drives were the only real moments of dash through the innings, confirming the futility of the inertia adopted by their batsmen earlier. The surge was too late and ultimately too little.
Sanath Jayasuriya began as if it was 1996, the world his stage. A scooped push through point was soon followed by the perfect cover drive off Shane Bond. For six. A familiar punt over point and Jayasuriya seemed set. A poor decision did for him but by that stage Tharanga had settled.
Warning of his intentions came early, an upright drive past mid-off for four in the first over. The brief Jayasuriya interlude later, in the seventh over, Tharanga brought up the team fifty with two boundaries, first lofting over cover and then working past midwicket. Mahela Jayawardene didn't lag, immediately embellishing his arrival with an achingly beautiful cover drive.
Neither was in trouble thereafter, singles coming without bother and occasionally enough, to keep up interest, boundaries also arrived. Jayawardene cut the spinners Vettori and Patel, while Tharanga showed off a sweep and a couple of sweet drives. He brought up his fourth ODI fifty, off 69 balls and Jayawardene seemed set to follow him until he lost his concentration and wicket in the 27th over. Tharanga caught the malaise in the same over, though by then the game was up.
Stephen Fleming lbw Vaas 0 (14 for 1)
Trapped on the crease to one that came in instead of moving away
Lou Vincent b Maharoof 13 (37 for 2)
Ugly swipe across the line to slower ball that kept low
Hamish Marshall c Dilshan b Malinga 4 (56 for 3)
Cuts a short, wide delivery straight to point
Scott Styris c Sangakarra b Jayasuriya 3 (66 for 4)
Attempted cut to a short, wide ball edged into gloves
Jacob Oram b Muralitharan 6 (82 for 5)
Completely fooled by the doosra, bowled round his legs
Nathan Astle c Malinga b Muralitharan 42 (87 for 6)
Top-edged attempted sweep straight to deep midwicket
Brendon McCullum c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 9 (101 for 7)
Edged an attempted reverse sweep onto pad before looping up to slip
Kyle Mills lbw Muralitharan 6 (115 for 8)
Trapped plumb in front by one that turned in sharply
Shane Bond c Sangakarra b Jayasuriya 1 (118 for 9)
Under-edged an attempted cut to keeper
Jeetan Patel c Jayawardene b Malinga 10 (165 for 10)
Guided a full ball straight to point
Sanath Jayasuriya c McCullum b Mills 20 (45 for 1)
Dubious inside edge to a nothing drive, straight to keeper
Mahela Jayawardene c Vettori b Patel 48 (134 for 2)
Holed out to long on after being beaten in flight
Upul Tharanga st McCullum b Patel 56 (135 for 3)
Dancing down the pitch unnecessarily, beaten by spin
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