Sri Lanka in full swing at SSC

Charlie Austin

August 4, 2002

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With three `papara' bands in full swing under the corrugated tin roofs at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Sri Lanka celebrated the return of Aravinda de Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan to their one-day side, cruising to a comfortable five-wicket win against Bangladesh in the opening game of a three-match series.

The carnival atmosphere off the field - a stark change to the Test series, which was played out in front of empty stands - produced some entertaining afternoon batting by Sri Lanka's batsmen.

With Bangladesh scoring a respectable, if not competitive, 226, Marvan Atapattu guided the host team home after blazing cameos from Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara.

Jayasuriya launched a withering assault in the early overs, thrashing 40 from 32 balls, including six fours and a massive short arm jab for six that sailed onto the grassed bank in front of the scoreboard.

When he departed, caught at short mid-wicket off a miscued pull, Sangakkara carried on the attack, scorching to 29 from 23 balls with six fours.

Sri Lanka rattled up their 100 in 14.2 overs, allowing them to amble towards victory after Sangakkara was caught at mid-wicket, slog-sweeping medium pacer Khaled Mahmud.

The right-hander Atapattu, now playing as an opener after the axing of Romesh Kaluwitharana, eased himself past fifty for the 41st time in his career.

He looked set for a century but was run out for 83 after a direct hit from Manjural Islam, the wicket bringing veteran Aravinda de Silva (1) to the crease for the first time in one and a half years in a One-Day International.

De Silva's arrival was greeted with a cheering ovation from the crowd, but they were only able to savour one sweep shot before the 36-year-old before he was dubiously adjudged to have feathered a catch behind.

Arnold guided Sri Lanka past the winning post, finishing with 29 from 56 balls.

Earlier in the day, Bangladesh, looking for only their fourth victory in one-day cricket, had boldly elected to bat first in the morning on a pitch that traditionally offers the fast bowlers encouragement during the first hour.

But the decision appeared justified as the openers, Al Sahariar and Mohammad Ashraful, comfortably negotiated the early overs, adding 38 for the first wicket, as left-armer Chaminda Vaas failed to swing the ball.

However, in the tenth over, Al Sahariar chased a wide swinging delivery from Dilhara Fernando to be caught behind for 25, precipitating a top order collapse that saw four wickets fall for 38 runs.

Habibul Bashar (2) dragged a short ball from Chamila Gamage on to his stumps and Alok Kapali gifted Mahela Jayawardene a simple catch at first slip to give debutante all-rounder Hasantha Fernando his first wicket in international cricket.

With Ashraful caught at mid-off for 36, attempting an over-ambitious lofted straight drive against Muttiah Muralitharan, Bangladesh were precariously placed on 86 for four.

But gutsy, workman-like half centuries from Tushar Imran (61) and skipper Khaled Mahmud (54) ensured the visitors their highest score against Sri Lanka.

The pair added 90 for the fifth wicket, forcing Jayasuriya to chop and change his bowlers, seven of whom were used during the innings.

In the end it was Muralitharan, playing his first one-day match since dislocating his shoulder at Sharjah last April, who broke through as Imran top edged an attempted sweep.

The wicket drew Muralitharan level with Australian spinner Shane Warne on 278 wickets, fourth equal highest wicket-taker in ODI history.

Sri Lanka re-grouped after the fall of Imran, restricting Bangladesh to 55 runs in the final 10 overs, as wickets fell too frequently for an all-out assault.

In the morning, Sri Lanka had awarded two new caps to fast bowler Chamila Gamage and medium pace all-rounder Hasantha Fernando.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, drafted in all three of their one-day specialists - former captain Naimur Rahman, left arm spinner Mohammad Raffique and all-rounder Khaled Mahmud - as they packed their side with all-rounders.

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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