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Sri Lanka prevail despite late fright

Sri Lanka, easily the best side of the Morocco Cup 2002, were given a fright by Mark Boucher and Boeta Dippenaar in a remarkable stand of 101, retrieving the situation from 91 for 6 to 192 for seven. But Sri Lanka prevailed by 27 runs, with nine balls to spare.

His dislocated right shoulder all strapped up after a fall in the third over, Sanath Jayasuriya still came to receive the trophy with a wall-to-wall grin. He also walked away with Man-of-the-Match and Man-of-the-Series awards. Waqar Younis received the Man-of-the-Series for Pakistan.

Sri Lanka's confident march to the title here raises their status to co-favourites for the ICC Champions Trophy. And Pakistan must take note of this, for they play their all-important opener at Colombo against the hosts.

On their way to victory, Sri Lanka too had faltered, gathering only 235 after they seemed to be coasting to a far higher total. But their bowlers made up for that lapse, by getting amongst the wickets early on. As a result, despite a courageous partnership for the seventh wicket, the South Africans were never in the hunt.

The Proteas' intentions were aggressive, but their application flawed. Promoting Lance Klusener to open the innings with Herschelle Gibbs meant that they wanted runs at a brisk rate at the start. But Sri Lanka got two wickets inside the first six overs and another in the 13th over to upset their best-laid place. There was, however, a major reverse for the Lankans as well. They lost their captain Sanath Jayasuriya through an injury, dislocated right shoulder that thudded into the ground after catching Gibbs at mid-off off Chaminda Vaas.

The Sri Lankans missed Jayasuriya's influence in the field, not to mention his left-arm slow bowling, also not visible.

With Gibbs gone, Klusener tore into Palsathi Gunaratne, clouting him for four at square leg and six over mid-wicket. Marvan Atapattu, in charge as Jayasuriya was rushed to the hospital, promptly relieved Gunaratne next over, bringing on Dilhara Fernando from Cap Spartel end. He bowled what must have looked like a mouth-watering full toss to Klusener, but it dipped at the last moment, hit him on the pads and umpire Simon Taufel had no hesitation in adjudging him leg before.

Vaas had another scalp in his seventh over, as Graeme Smith dragged him on to his stumps to make it three for 52. Their misery was compounded from here. Atapattu, having a great time in the field, caught Jacques Kallis (24, 36 balls, 3 fours), the most authoritative of South African batsmen, top edging a sweep off Chandana at square-leg, and followed with the run-out of Jonty Rhodes from long-on.

With half the Proteas side back in the pavilion at the halfway mark, and only 89 runs on the board, the asking rate pushing close to six an over and Muralitharan not yet on, the writing was pretty much on the wall. He was given the 26th over, and immediately made it six for 91, clean bowling Nicky Boje through the gate with a straight one.

Mark Boucher and Boeta Dippenaar (53 runs, 98 balls, 2 fours) turned things around in a brave stand of 101 off 112 balls, taking the Proteas within a hand shake's distance to glory. But Dipennaar got out trying to hit Gunaratne out of the ground, with Jayawardene taking a good catch at long-off. Pollock was run-out shortly afterwards, and Telemachus was bowled by Murali. Boucher (70, 65 balls, 4 fours, 2 sixes) too perished, guiding Gunaratne into Sangakkara's hands, bringing the Proteas' late charge to a close in the penultimate over.

Earlier South Africa came back to contain Sri Lanka to 235 for seven, far fewer than they would have expected when they were cruising at 119 for one in the 22nd over. Once their top two batsmen were dismissed, Sri Lamka made just 116 runs off 227 deliveries.

Sanath Jayasuriya (71, off 71 deliveries, 10 fours, 1 six) had got them off to a brisk start, first with Marwan Atapattu (25, 40, 3 fours) and then Kumar Sangakkara (40, off 54 deliveries, 4 fours). With the first and second wicket adding 78 and 41 runs, they were ideally placed for an imposing total. More so as the South Africans had used seven bowlers and yet were unable to stem the flow of runs.

But Jayasuriya, having scored his 50th fifty in 230 one-day-internationals, lofted a Boje full toss in the direction of long-off, straight into a running Donald's hands at long-off. Yet again, Jayasuriya had thrown it away when he seemed destined for greater things. But his stay on the crease was still a highly productive one, and it provided the Lankan innings the impetus.

Sangakkara and Aravinda de Silva, the maestro who had taken 151 runs in two league games against the Proteas without being conquered, had another productive stand of 48 for the third wicket. But Kumar Sangakkara holed out to Boeta Dippenaar at deep squre leg after lofting Nicky Boje over extra cover fence. From here on the Lankans found it extremely difficult to get runs at a reasonable rate and keep the partnerships going.

Aravinda de Silva was batting well, but seemed to be a touch restless. He charged down the wicket to Kallis, sent him soaring over extra cover for a six, but then offered a simple chance to Mark Boucher on a short delivery.

With de Silva gone, the South African bowlers, who had seemed so helpless early on, seized the opportunity and choked the Lankans for runs. And though Donald went for 11 runs in the penultimate over, the rest was mostly a crawl, as only 37 runs came between over No 31 and 41, 42 off the last 10 overs.