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All Stars fumble against champions Sri Lanka

A Sri Lanka side without any big names overcame the Shane Warne-led All Stars to win the 2007 edition of the Hong Kong Sixes.

Sri Lanka, captained by Indika de Saram, triumphed for the first time in the tournament - held since 1992. They remained unbeaten through the two days, and were the only team that managed to upset the All Stars in the six-a-side event.

Batting first, Sri Lanka rattled up an imposing 127 for 3 in the final, the tournament's highest, off five eight-ball overs (instead of the usual six-ball overs for the other matches). de Saram starred with an unbeaten 40, the best individual score of the tournament and was well-supported by Kaushalya Weeraratne, who retired after going past 30, in keeping with the tournament rules.

Warne, who conceded only seven runs in the fifth over of the semi-final against Pakistan, came in for heavy punishment in the final, giving away 30 runs, including a few wides (costing two runs apiece) after Ranga Dias blasted the first three deliveries in the over for 6, 4 and 6.

The All Stars were up against the tide from the first ball of their chase, with Craig McMillan - who was named Player of the Tournament - out for a golden duck. It was the first time that McMillan had been dismissed, but he earned a consolation in winning the Ben Hollioake Trophy for his 148 runs.

Brian Lara's spirited effort of 34 was cut short due to the retirement rule, but Geraint Jones came in and blasted three successive sixes. Jones, the England wicketkeeper during the 2005 Ashes, did exceptionally well with bat, ball and in the field in place of Glenn McGrath, who missed the final two matches due to a dislocated finger.

Jones finished the tournament with a six, but his 36 was not enough to deny Sri Lanka the trophy.

"The Hong Kong Sixes is a great tournament and I think the fans at home will take this as a very good thing," Jeewantha Kulatunga, who scored 28 in the final, said. "This week was so special to play against players like Warne, Lara and McGrath, so I think it was a great honour to play against them and the fans will feel great.

"Cricket is a funny old game. We did not have that much pressure on us, so we did our best and went for the win and that was what we did," he said. "Because it was an eight-ball game, even if you miss one or two, you do not need to panic. You have to keep clam and do your best."

Warne felt his bowlers erred in the final. "The eight-ball overs made a lot of difference in the final," he said. "The part-time bowlers having to bowl a couple of extra deliveries made a difference, but all credit to Sri Lanka. They played extremely well and deserved to win.

"Losing Craig McMillan cost us a fair bit. He had not being out for the whole tournament and then gets out first ball of the final."

The All Stars also pledged their runners-up cheque for US$45,000 for the development of junior cricket in Hong Kong.

Earlier in the day, the All Stars posted easy victories over the two four-time winners - England and Pakistan - in the quarter and semi-finals while Sri Lanka got the better of New Zealand and defending champions South Africa in the knockout games.

New Zealand and Pakistan shared third place, while positions five to eight were taken by South Africa, England, Bangladesh and Australia, on the basis of net run-rate. India and Hong Kong finished a lowly ninth.

However, it was the All Stars that caught the eye of the sold-out stands at the Kowloon Cricket Club. "It is the first time that I have played over here in the Sixes and I have thoroughly enjoyed it," Warne said. "Everyone has been very hospitable and has made us feel very welcome. It has been a really good fun weekend. We did not disgrace ourselves us old fellas, so it was great."