November 25, 2001

West Indies rue umpiring blunder in Kandy Test

West Indies were left fuming on Sunday night following the controversial dismissal of batting superstar Brian Lara which paved the way for Sri Lanka' s series winning victory in Kandy.

Lara, who played expertly for his 45 and looked set to save the game for West Indies, was wrongly adjudged to have been caught at short leg off left-arm spinner Niroshan Bandaratillake two balls after tea.

The ball had come off the full face of the bat into the hands of Hashan Tillakaratne, who completed a brilliant reflex catch. But television replays clearly indicated that the ball had been hit straight into the ground.

Coach Roger Harper, speaking straight after his sides 131 defeat, said: "Naturally we are very, very disappointed. Not only in losing but also in the manner in which we though the game was taken away from us."

He added: "The dismissal of Brian Lara was clearly the pivotal moment. The outcome could have been totally different.

"I have no explanation for it," he said. "All I can say is that all the Sri Lankans in the match contributed to it."

According present ICC regulations the match referee are unable to recall players when a clear mistake has been made.

Likewise the on-field umpires are only allowed to call for the third umpire to verify whether the catch itself was taken cleanly, not whether it was a bump ball.

The dismissal opened up the tail Muttiah Muralitharan, who despite a valiant 59 run stand for the seventh wicket between Marlon Samuels and Mervyn Dillon, took four wickets in the final hour to win the game.

Captain Carl Hooper, whose honeymoon period as captain is officially over, pointed the finger of blame at the batting but admitted that Muralitharan was a tough adversary.

"We didn't bat properly," he said. "It's not new that we are prone to collapses. It has been difficult here in Sri Lanka. Conditions have not been exactly good for batting and we are up against a world-class bowler.

"Muralitharan is the difference between the two sides and is undoubtedly the best spinner in the world. He has been putting us under a lot of pressure. With have to come up with a solution in Colombo."

The defeat leaves West Indies two-nil down in the series, facing the humiliation of a series whitewash.

"We can't be thinking about the whitewash," warned Hooper. "The important thing is that we play better in Colombo. There is no overnight fix. We have to keep working hard and keep the faith. We can't afford to give up or we'll just keep going down further."

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