December 15, 2001

Jayawardene century overshadowed by Lara injury

West Indian hopes of qualification for the LG Abans triangular series final were dealt a cruel blow on Saturday at Asgiriya International stadium, Kandy, after a freak collision robbed them of the services of star batsman Brian Lara for the remainder of the tour and possibly the Pakistan tour that follows.

Lara badly dislocated his elbow after a collision with Marvan Atapattu and had to be stretchered off the field and rushed to Kandy general hospital, reviving memories of Steve Waugh's horrific collision with Jason Gillespie on the same ground in 1999.

Without Lara, who had been batting serenely, racing to 24 off 29 balls, West Indies were unable to make full use of the best batting pitch of the tournament so far and Sri Lanka's batsmen, led by Mahela Jaywardene who scored a 90-ball hundred, romped to an eight wicket in front of a festive capacity crowd.

Lara becomes the seventh West Indian player to be ruled out of an ill-fated and unsuccessful tour. It all started with the last-minute withdrawal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul (back) before the team's departure. Then, in Sri Lanka, Reon King (hernia), Leo Garrick (heart scare), Dinanath Ramnarine (side strain), Mervyn Dillon (disciplinary problems) and Wavell Hinds (family reasons) were all forced to leave the tour prematurely.

In such circumstances West Indies poor performance is hardly surprising. They now face a straight shoot out with Zimbabwe tomorrow for a place in Wednesdays final in Colombo.

Lara's injured occurred in the eleventh over of the morning. West Indies were rattling along at six runs an over despite the early loss of Chris Gayle, trapped lbw after offering no shot.

Lara pushed the ball into the off-side and called for a quick single. In a desperate effort to gain his ground he dived and collided with Atapattu, who had raced in from extra cover to attempt the run out.

It was clear there was a serious problem as he wriggled on the ground in agony and waved desperately for assistance. Within minutes he was carried off the ground, with assistance from both team physios, and straight to hospital, where fears that he had also fractured his arm where at least allayed.

But Lara, who returned to his best form in Sri Lanka, will probably still need two months to recover fully because of the extensive ligament damage caused by the dislocation. West Indies are due to tour Pakistan in February, leaving Lara with a tough race to regain his fitness in time.

West Indies responded well, as Daren Ganga (52) scored his third consecutive half-century in the tournament and Carl Hooper celebrated his 35th birthday with a top score of 72.

But West Indies though lost their way in the later stages of the innings, losing their last five wickets for 42 runs, to be bowled out for 235 in the last over of the innings.

Sri Lanka started in boundaries, as Sanath Jayasuriya raced to 34 off 34 balls. However, two wickets from teenager pace bowler Jermaine Lawson pulled West Indies back into the game, with Sri Lanka on 52 for two.

The game though didn't stay evenly poised for long, as Jayawardene and Atapattu took the attack to an inexperienced bowling attack, weakened in the morning by the precautionary resting of Pedro Collins in the morning. Hooper was left needing to fiddle overs out of his part-time bowlers and the batsmen scored almost at will, hitting five sixes in the innings.

Atapattu started with uncharacteristic aggression, hooking Corey Colleymore for six and cover driving Neil McGarrell for another in the left-arm spinners first over. However, after the initial boundary spurt, he calmed down to play a supporting role to Jayawardene and was 82 not out at the close.

Jaywardene, dismissed on 96 on Wednesday, looked in scintillating form from the start. He hit three fours in his first fifty, which came off 51 balls, and further five fours and two sixes in the second that came off just 39 balls. He finished on 106 not out and was unsurprisingly adjudged man of the match.

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