The Bank AlFalah Cup will linger mainly in the memories of New Zealand players and supporters - it was, after all, only their second tournament victory, following the 2000 ICC Knockout in Kenya. Their success was quite an achievement, given their injury list and the unfamiliar conditions. However, this trilateral tournament in Sri Lanka was every bit as drab as the Test series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand that preceded it. And even the addition of Pakistan, often international cricket's most colourful team, was unable to redeem it.
The problem lay in the pitches which, for most of the competition, offered the bowlers far too much help: attrition replaced entertainment, and the seven games produced just eight stands of 50 or more, four individual fifties, and neither a hundred partnership nor an individual century.
The only consolation was that play was taking place at all. Dambulla, where all the matches were held, had been scheduled for just the first three, but persistent downpours in Colombo prompted the Sri Lankan board to switch the remaining fixtures to the dry zone.
New Zealand triumphed through a combination of self-belief and teamwork. They were missing the injured Nathan Astle and the out-of-form Craig McMillan, and soon lost Shane Bond. Chris Cairns took part as a specialist batsman - an unfortunate move, considering the way the wickets played - and at least three other key members of the party operated at reduced capacity during the tournament. Daryl Tuffey, though, was a tower of strength, and he received staunch support from his fellow-bowlers. Stephen Fleming led in his usual calm manner, and in the final produced a vital innings when it counted.
Under Marvan Atapattu, their new one-day captain, Sri Lanka failed to reach the final of a home tournament for the first time, performing with neither confidence nor positive intent. Although they played poorly in the final, Pakistan could still take satisfaction that their young squad got that far. Had Shoaib Akhtar (banned for ball tampering) been available for the game, they might even have won. Shoaib Malik, overlooked for the World Cup, shone brightly with bat and ball, and won the series award.
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