Cut to the chase
If it's Johannesburg it must be another run-fest. New Zealand spoiled it by getting only 164, but Sri Lanka's emphatic run-chase proved once again just how good a batting surface it is at the Wanderers. The first Twenty20 hundred was scored here at the start of the tournament, the highest score in this format was reached yesterday, while today a target of 165 was made to look ridiculously inadequate. And this against a bowling side which included Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori, two of the most parsimonious bowlers in one-day internationals.
New Zealand have the firepower to make use of the conditions here - Lou Vincent, Peter Fulton, Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram can all belt it a long way - but today's honours were clearly taken by Sri Lanka's top four, who cantered to their second win of the tournament.
The opening batting is one of the strongest suits for Sri Lanka, and it was the 82-run partnership in 7.3 overs from Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga that set it up. The key to their domination was the manner in which both batsmen went after Bond, who had an entirely forgettable day, not only conceding bucketful of runs but also dropping a sitter from Jayasuriya.
In conditions as unforgiving as this, even a marginal error in length or line - and sometimes not even that - can be a run-scoring opportunity, and both Jayasuriya and Tharanga cashed in with aplomb. Bond either slipped it slightly wide outside off - a crime when bowling to Jayasuriya - or overcompensated by straying onto leg stump. Both lines of attack were perfect for the Sri Lankan openers.
|With the trend being what it is, Vettori might be the last captain to win the toss and bat first at the Wanderers in this tournament|
The blast from their batsmen also put into perspective Sri Lanka's superb performance in the field earlier in the day. Gayan Wijekoon was the one weak link, but the rest of the bowling machine worked perfectly. Dilhara Fernando put in a much-improved performance, while Lasith Malinga is a deadly weapon to have towards the end of an innings.
With the trend being what it is, Vettori might be the last captain to win the toss and bat first at the Wanderers in this tournament. Chasing a target has clearly been an advantage here - teams batting first have sometimes not pressed the throttle all the way, perhaps unsure of what total to aim for when setting a target. Meanwhile, the excellent batting conditions have meant virtually any total is chaseable. Of the four games played here, three have been won by the team chasing - including Bangladesh's upset win against West Indies - while the only one where the team batted first and triumphed was when Sri Lanka thrashed an out-of-sorts Kenya. If the weather stays like it has over the last week, chasing a score could be a considerable advantage through the rest of the tournament here.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo