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The Bulletin by Anand Vasu
March 21, 2007
Sri Lanka steadfastly resisted the temptation to do what India did, which is to play below par against, at least on paper, a much weaker opponent. Showing no signs of shakiness whatsoever they blanked out Bangladesh in their match at the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The match was, for all practical purposes, sewn up when Sri Lanka scored 318 after being put in to bat, but even the second half, interrupted by rain as it was, gave Bangladesh little hope as they caved in to a 198-run loss.
Habibul Bashar's decision to put Sri Lanka in was not the most straightforward one, and it's now hard to see why he chose that way. Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya seemed dead set on putting a big score on the board from very early on, when the ball was doing a bit in the air and off the pitch, especially for Syed Rasel.
Tharanga punches well through the off side, and is equally comfortable opening the face of the bat and slicing the ball over the infield, and he was off the blocks early. Jayasuriya, of course, has every shot in the book, and on the day he was toying with the bowling. He focussed on picking off the ones and twos, and this encouraged the bowlers to attack. When they did, Jayasuriya countered beautifully, pulling fiercely, cutting hard, and thumping back down the ground for boundaries.
Before Bangladesh were quite sure how to adjust tactics and control the flow of runs, Sri Lanka were off to a bright start, reaching 50 off 54 balls. There were a couple of close calls for run outs, but Bangladesh's failure to hit the stumps direct cost them dear. It was not until the 15th over that they broke the opening stand, when Tharanga fell. Mohammad Rafique, coming into the attack first-change, dropped one a touch short and wide outside the off, and Tharanga could not keep the cut shot down. Aftab Ahmed juggled the catch but held onto it at point and Tharanga was gone for 26, with Sri Lanka on 98.
Jayasuriya traipsed on merrily, interrupted first by the rain, and later by an injury, but never by the bowlers. When he turned quickly for a run, stopping awkwardly, Jayasuriya strained his left knee, and walked off the field on 83. That was a temporary blip in the radar for Sri Lanka, but Mahela Jayawardene ensured that the scoring rate did not dip. He began to take a few chances, and went after the spinners, clouting sixes straight back over the bowlers' heads.
But Jayawardene's impetuosity would cost him. On 46 he walked down the pitch and chipped a catch to long-off, losing his wicket in a soft dismissal. Sangakkara relied less on touch than Jayawardene, striking some beefy blows across the line, but he too would not go on to make a big one, falling softly, lofting to long-on when on 56.
In the meantime, Jayasuriya had recovered sufficiently to come back on the field, and he quickly raced to his half-century. A pick-up shot off the pads over square-leg for six got the blood flowing. Abdul Razzak was then launched over long-on to bring up the century, and was followed immediately by a six over long-off. But, off the next ball Jayasuriya played one big shot too many, attempting a reverse sweep and only managing to bob the ball up to fine-leg. Jayasuriya made 109.
Chamara Silva capped the Sri Lankan innings with a typically audacious knock, hitting an unbeaten 52 off 48 balls. He went after the bowling with total freedom, and his knock ensured a score of over 300 for Sri Lanka.
When Bangladesh replied, it was bad news from the word go. Shahriar Nafees was the first to go, trapped in front of the stumps by Vaas for just 1. Tamim Iqbal, the young star of Bangladesh's win against India, who turned 18 just yesterday, fished at one just outside the off when Malinga banged one in a touch short. Kumar Sangakkara snapped up the catch.
Aftab, one of the players Bangladesh look towards to bat out long periods of time, could not do the job on the day. With only 20 on the board three wickets were down, and the road ahead looked bleak. Farveez Maharoof, coming into the attack first-change, prised out the fourth wicket, that of the doughty Mushfiqur Rahim. Maharoof dropped one short and Mushfiqur chopped hard and ball flew straight to Tillakaratne Dilshan at point. The smart offering was pouched and Bangladesh were 26 for 4 from 11.1 overs.
Then, for a time, Bangladesh resisted, but Muttiah Muralitharan is the sort of bowler who you can't resist for too long. Saqibul Hasan had batted all of 20 balls for 4 runs, but he failed to pick a doosra and had his leg stump pegged back. Soon after there was more trouble as a mix-up in the running left Habibul Bashar well short of his crease. From there to oblivion it was a short, if not swift, road. Bangladesh were all out for 112, and Sri Lanka had swept to victory.
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