Politics cast a long shadow over some mundane one-day cricket. The terrorist attacks of September 11 raised doubts about whether Sharjah's autumn tournament would take place; once it began, Zimbabwe, beset by tension over racial quotas and domestic political turmoil, barely competed, lending their games a stale air of inevitability.
Pakistan arrived underprepared but left victorious. After New Zealand cancelled a tour, citing security fears, the Pakistanis had played only three days of international cricket since leaving England in June, and their opening performance in the tournament - now sponsored by a Dubai-based newspaper group - was rusty. But after that defeat, they proceeded unbeaten to the final, where they crushed Sri Lanka in a forgettable, low-scoring match. The most memorable game was a "dead" fixture, when both sides were through to the final. Inzamam-ul-Haq - suspended for Pakistan's first two matches after dissent in a one-day international in England, and undone by a painful blow to the box in their third - shepherded the newcomer Naved Latif to a hundred and his side to victory from an unpromising position. Meanwhile, Shahid Afridi was adding a degree of consistency to his explosive talent. Their attack relied heavily on an experienced trio: Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar took nine wickets each; Wasim Akram bowled with enthusiasm and guile to claim six for 62 and concede only 2.13 an over.
A lack of bowling depth disadvantaged Sri Lanka - though some press reports claimed the players preferred to blame ill-fitting trousers, which they had to repair themselves in the dressing-room. Muttiah Muralitharan was outstanding, applying a vice-like squeeze in mid-innings to finish with figures of 40-8-80-7. The rest were vexing: Charitha Buddika Fernando seized six wickets but was expensive; Chaminda Vaas cost less but took just three. Kumar Dharmasena claimed four for 101 from 29 overs with his off-breaks - and was promptly dropped. Only in the final did Sri Lanka's batting fail; otherwise they set targets of 250 or more, or chased successfully. Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold both averaged over 60, providing a steadying influence after the fireworks promised by the openers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Avishka Gunawardene, never quite ignited.
Zimbabwe arrived with a new coach, a new captain and a 12-match losing sequence - soon extended to 16. Brian Murphy, appointed when Heath Streak resigned three days before the start, lost all four tosses, condemning them to bat second, under lights. Only once did they threaten to make a game of it, in their second match against Pakistan, when the Flower brothers put on 146. These two were alone in scoring more than 100 for Zimbabwe; among the bowlers only Streak, Douglas Marillier and Henry Olonga went for less than five an over. Clearly, Geoff Marsh, who had coached Australia to huge success in the late 1990s, faced a daunting challenge if he were to restore Zimbabwe's fortunes.
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