Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Sydney

If it's Sydney, it must be a Sri Lankan win

Big hits, steely glares, great music and lively entertainment makes even a one-sided game rather fun

Damith Samarakoon

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Thisara Perera effects an acrobatic save in the covers that led to Matthew Wade's run out, Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Sydney, February 17, 2012
The gamechanger: Thisara Perera's dive to run out Matthew Wade © Getty Images
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Choice of game
I'm Sri Lankan and I live in Sydney. It was a no-brainer really, and I wasn't about to offend the forefathers of the Sri Lankan cricket fan by not attending. In reality the Sri Lankan cards had fallen in the CB series such that this was a near must-win match for them. So I was a bit nervous walking to the ground to say the least. I predicted a close game with the Lankans coming out on top but my biggest worry was that the weather would intervene and I would need to queue up for a refund.

Team supported
Sri Lanka, obviously. Although, I was impartial to clapping gently if the Australians did anything useful on the field.

Key performer
Although the Sri Lankan bowlers did a tremendous job to rein in the Australians I thought Mahela Jayawardene was exceptional once again. First in the field, he was aggressive with his field placements and clever with his use of the bowlers. Once he had the Aussies on the back foot, he didn't let up. This sort of clever leadership had been missing in the Sri Lankan team for a while and it was great to see Mahela at the helm again.

Then he came out with Dilshan to open - a move that has been long overdue as he is a completely different player when he opens - and played an innings laced with his silken touch, together with a few wafty, feely shots, as is his way. First he supported Dilshan and then took control. He was in charge from ball one until the game ended.

One thing I'd have changed about the day
I would have loved to have seen Lasith Malinga have a better day. Apart from getting Dave Warner out early, Malinga had a forgettable day. He dropped a sitter off David Hussey and then could not get his yorkers to line up against the tailenders. It seems strange to think that Malinga wasn't a threat but that was how I felt today.

To cap it off, he was dispatched from third man to fine leg by Jaywardene after misfielding twice in two balls.

Face-off I relished
As soon as I found out Brett Lee was playing I had two face-offs to looked forward to. First, it was Malinga v Warner. It was in Malinga's only good spell during the day that Warner got a severe working over. He was bounced, yorked, and eventually fell to the slower ball. Malinga controlled the pace of the ball beautifully over a five-ball period and Warner appeared clueless.

In the second innings Lee looked like he had a point to prove on his comeback and troubled both Dilshan and Jayawardene with a few into the ribs while politely inquiring about how they both had been during his lengthy follow-through. Dilshan, who looked unsettled in the first over, took it back to Lee in his second and smacked him for three boundaries in a row. It was poor bowling by Lee but Dilshan played three contrasting pull shots - in front of square, through square and behind square. The fact that Sri Lanka won both these mini-battles meant that they were well on their way to an easy win.

Wow moment
Matthew Wade's run-out stuck in my head because in that instant I felt Sri Lanka were going to have a really good day. It was brilliant fielding from Man of the Match Thisara Perera. Needless to say it sent the Sri Lankan supporters into causing a pandemonium.

Close encounter
Having learnt a painful lesson on day one of the SCG Test between Australia and India, in the cheap seats where I got sunburnt, I decided to get a seat in the second tier. So I didn't really have players hanging out at an arm's length. But fielding directly below me was Nuwan Kulasekara, who kept getting waved at by a small contingent of SL supporters. Nuwan nervously waved back, which of course thrilled the fans.

Shot of the day
Sri Lanka were in a tricky chase and Lee looked like he meant serious business. Then, out of nowhere, Dilshan pulled out an insane half slog-half pull off Mitchell Starc. It went sailing into the section where the Sri Lankan fans were. It was a flat, brute of a hit, and from then on the game changed and Sri Lanka never looked back.

Crowd meter
There were two pockets of Sri Lankan fans in the O'Reilly stand that made a lot of noise with the Papare bands and music. They naturally cheered everything the Sri Lankans did. As the night went on their numbers and the number of flags being waved seemed to grow exponentially.

Mike Hussey and Kumar Sangakkara hit a couple of sixes into the stand below me but both were dropped. Lee got a huge cheer when he walked out to bat.

I thought there might have been a bigger crowd, given it was a Friday afternoon, but I think the rain threw a lot of people off. It was still a decent-sized turnout, probably around 15 to 20,000. The crowds were well spread out through the ground and it created a lively atmosphere.

Entertainment
The innings break was pretty lively by the VB Ice Box challenge. Two teams of two people each (Sri Lankans v Australians) had to carry oversized ice cubes from one container to an oversized VB Ice box. These were about 75 metres apart. It was a relay race so the guys went first and last while the girls were second. I've never seen a Sri Lankan better an Australian in a sprint before, but today wasn't an ordinary day, and with keeping in tune with onfield events the Sri Lankans won.

Fancy-dress index
There were two guys dressed as big bananas who kept doing the "Sprinkler" dance. And a bunch of guys of varying ages were dressed up as Richie Benaud, with Wide World of Sports mikes and all.

Mahela Jayawardene scored an unbeaten half-century, Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Sydney, February 17, 2012
Mahela Jayawardene: good to see him open again © AFP
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Banner of the day
The big screen showed a poster that said "Marry me Slatz" only to pan down and show a very feral Australian man in a blonde wig.

Marks out of 10
9. Docking half a point for the weather and another half for the one-sidedness of the game. I am not complaining though. The crowd was thoroughly entertained by the classic Sri Lankan brand of cricket - free and unhinged. Sri Lanka's dominance at the SCG continues, and it was nice not to get sunburnt again. I just wish Sri Lanka had another game here.

Overall
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day as Sri Lanka finally got all aspects of their game just right without being perfect, and I was happy to be part of their first win in the CB series. The atmosphere was lively and it was fun to boo the Members Stand yet again for refusing to take part in the Mexican wave. It would have been nice if the weather had been better but in the end it didn't make too much of a difference, and even then the crowds were kept well entertained via the big screen with the "Kiss Cam".

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Damith Samarakoon is a Sri Lankan cricket fanatic living in Sydney. He blogs regularly at www.theflyslip.net

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Comments: 4 
Posted by Ameega on (February 20, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

Great stuff Damith. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Posted by Marcian on (February 19, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

Good read, Damith. Couldn't agree more regarding Mahela's captaincy - outstanding stuff. MJ oozes cricketing acumen, much like Arjuna, perhaps even better than him. And for all those fans who thought it was a big mistake to give the captaincy back to him... well, think again.

Posted by frank2011 on (February 18, 2012, 22:17 GMT)

Great article Damith. The atmosphere sounds wonderful. I always enjoy the calypso groove Sri Lankan fans bring to the SCG and also I enjoy booing the members for their stance against the Mexican wave. For me the shot of the day was Sanga's first boundary - a glorious straight drive. And regarding Lee's enquiry to the SL openers, he received three brutal replies from Dilshan as answers and he enquired no more :)

Posted by playitstraight on (February 18, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

Great article, yeah Mahela is a totally different player when he opens, just makes you wonder why he doesn't want to.

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