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The series was oddly scheduled, and the bowler-friendly conditions didn't allow for riveting cricket
Siddarth Ravindran in Dambulla
August 29, 2010
Dambulla is a bit of a strange place to host international cricket - despite being in a Test-playing country, it is a town with no major local team or much of a cricketing culture. It hosted a strange one-day tournament too. At a time when scores in the region of 300 are the norm, in most matches of the tri-series, teams struggled to reach 200.
When three-day breaks between Tests are becoming the rule, the series had two rest days between each ODI, though all matches were played at the same venue. The oddness of the schedule was highlighted when a rained-out league match meant New Zealand didn't have a bat in the middle for 12 days during the tournament; the previous one-day competition in Dambulla, the Asia Cup in June, lasted 10 days in its entirety.
The series was billed as a tune-up for the World Cup, but the overwhelmingly bowler-friendly conditions were a marked contrast to the flat tracks expected at next year's showpiece tournament, which meant teams could take few pointers from the tri-series.
Sri Lanka will be the most satisfied of the teams, not just because they won the title, ending a run of home series defeats to India, but also because the likes of allrounder Thisara Perera and middle-order batsman Chamara Silva have heated up the competition for World Cup berths.
Perera couldn't showcase his power-hitting in the two matches he got but worked up some decent pace to unsettle the Indian batsmen on his way to eight wickets. Silva remained unbeaten in the two opportunities to bat, a quick 41 in the washed-out match against New Zealand and a 21-ball 26 to guide Sri Lanka to 299 in the final.
For India, the disappointment will be that none of their new generation of batsmen were able to withstand the scrutiny on difficult tracks. "This was an ideal scenario where anybody could have stood up and said, 'I'll be the hero today,' said MS Dhoni, but in none of the matches did any of the youngsters grab that chance. Ravindra Jadeja didn't either, his dipping batting form leaving the management to ponder over who India's best bet at No. 7 is.
It was the seniors, Virender Sehwag and - to a lesser extent - Dhoni, who steered India towards the finals. Sehwag was the outstanding batsman of the tournament, sculpting two utterly different match-winning innings to overshadow his team-mates in the league phase, and yet again silence doubters questioning his technique. During his unbeaten 99, he adopted a wait-and-watch approach early on against the moving ball, curbing his natural aggression to shore up a wobbly India. Against New Zealand, he reverted to his everything-must-go batting philosophy, battering them with a 93-ball 110 despite India faltering at 66 for 4 at one stage.
Strangely, the only other century-maker in the tournament and second highest run-maker was also not one renowned for his watertight technique, but another up-and-at-'em opener, Tillakaratne Dilshan. After frittering a string of starts, and losing his match fee for his role in the Suraj Randiv no-ball controversy, Dilshan made amends by cracking his maiden home one-day century to set up Sri Lanka for the title.
Though two openers were the most successful batsmen, the new-ball bowlers of all sides had an enjoyable tournament, repeatedly deceiving the batsmen instead of being the usual Powerplay fodder.
The third team in the tournament, New Zealand, had few gains to show from the first leg of their three-stage subcontinental build-up for the World Cup despite starting off with a 200-run hammering of India. Ross Taylor had a difficult time in his first extended captaincy stint as his depleted batting unit struggled to cope with the conditions, with Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson picking up two ducks each. And there was the demoralising news of Jacob Oram needing yet another knee surgery, which will rule him out for nearly four months.
New Zealand didn't make Saturday's full-house final, which was the 14th one-dayer in three months in Dambulla, a surfeit of international cricket the town is unlikely to witness again. With three floodlight international stadiums wholly owned by Sri Lanka Cricket coming up for the World Cup, Dambulla will have plenty of competition ahead of forthcoming tours to the country.
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