On this day: Ganguly, Dravid blitzkrieg hits Taunton

India brightened its chances of qualifying for the Super Six of the 1999 World Cup following a 157-run victory over Sri Lanka. The architects were Ganguly and Dravid.

Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid put up a record 318-run stand.   -  V.V. Krishnan

Indian cricket rarely had it so good when playing away from home. The architects of this grand revival were Sourav Ganguly (183) and Rahul Dravid (145) as the team brightened its chances of qualifying for the Super Six of the 1999 World Cup following an emphatic 157-run victory over Sri Lanka. The win carried India's points tally to four, the same as Zimbabwe in the group which is now headed by South Africa, with eight points, followed by England with six. Sri Lanka has just two.

What a mayhem it was in broad daylight! Ganguly, the man of the match, and Dravid plundered runs at will and left Sri Lanka in a state of shock after the severe battering at the Somerset Club.

It was a most clinical annihilation Sri Lanka had been subjected to. It would have been naive to expect Sri Lanka, chasing 374 to win, to pull it off even if muted veterans — Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva — offered resistance in the middle order.

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The Indian bowlers too stuck to their job with Robin Singh, returning mainly because Nayan Mongia had to miss the match, convincing the team management of hit capabilities with the ball too, claiming five wickets for 31 runs. A fabulous performance from a man who has never been short of commitment to the team.

It was a pleasant coincidence that the performance from Ganguly and Dravid came on a ground full of batting exploits by Viv Richards and Ian Botham. India's victory was just an extension of the revival that was crafted by Sachin Tendulkar in the last match against Kenya and carried over by two of the best batsmen in the world.

Ganguly and Dravid gave the statisticians a hectic time in keeping track of the records that fell by the wayside, the most prominent of them being the highest individual score by an Indian in one-day Internationals. It stood in the name of Kapil Dev (175 not out) and it was most befitting that it now belongs to Ganguly, the charming performer from Calcutta, who gave the Indian team the much needed elixir for staving on in the World Cup by carrying the levels of batting to a new high.

India compiled a total of 373 for six and Tendulkar almost did not get to bat. Now that was a rare happening in Indian cricket for sure. The hopes 0f the team rose to dizzy heights with Ganguly and Dravid clobbering the bowling. The shots flew from the meat of the bat and the edges and mis-hits came only towards die end when both had to fling the bat around.

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The much-acclaimed Indian batting, having staged a reincarnation against the lowly Kenyans, was placed on a high pedestal through classy acts by Ganguly and Dravid, who put to sword the Sri Lankan bowlers after being asked to bat.

The Ganguly-Dravid association, the first ever 300-run stand for any wicket in a One-day International, was worth 318 runs. It broke the all-time record for any wicket of 275 standing in the name of Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja against Zimbabwe at Cuttack in 1997. But all these statistical details shall never portray the true joy of watching Dravid and Ganguly put the Lankan bowling in its place.

It was an awesome display of dominating batsmanship with Dravid and Ganguly playing the role most perfectly. They paced the innings with such a deft performance — at times silken strokes sending the crowds into raptures and at times the ball thudding into the fence to take the paint off the billboards. It was a brilliantly orchestrated act by Dravid and Ganguly and the Lankans only played into their hands with some awful fielding and erratic bowling.

The Sri Lankan bowling attack was put to sword by Ganguly and Dravid.   -  V.V. Krishnan

 

It was a pasting the Lankan bowlers shall never forget and all credit to the innovative Dravid, who was crafting his fifth century in one-dayers and an unusually aggressive Ganguly, who came up with his seventh. One must also add that for both the batsmen the effort was their career best.

What to say of the strokes! You had to watch them to believe as Sri Lankan bowling lay devastated under a barrage of fours and sizes. The Sri Lankans were absolutely pathetic on the field today. They could neither stop the ball on the ground nor take the catches that came their way.

Ganguly played some sensational shots and took the wind out of the attack. Even 22 players on the field would have fallen woefully short for the Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, who just stood helplessly and saw his team crashing around him. He could not hide the poor fielders and his bowlers let the side down badly. "Can't cry and defend this performance. We played very badly. The three fast bowlers were really pathetic," said a disappointed Ranatunga.

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Ganguly was not only majestic but flawless too. As far as Dravid was concerned, he was simply spectacular and in one innings he graduated from a grafter to a brilliant strokemaker. All in one innings. The confidence that Dravid showed was amazing. He did nothing wrong as he took the attack by the scruff -- in a style so similar to Tendulkar and that indeed was the greatest gain for the Indians from this quality opera that was staged for the benefit of millions back home and the faithful thousands out in the lovely sun at Taunton, which later hid behind the clouds when the Indian bowlers looked for victims.

From the time Sanath layasuriya ran himself out, the Sri Lankans slid to one of their worst performances against India. Romesh Kaluwitharna was trapped by Srinath and Debasish Mohanty got rid of the confident Atapattu to push Sri Lanka into a hopeless position. When Mahela Jayawardane fell to Kumble it was just a matter of time before the innings degenerated.

Aravinda de Silva and Ranatunga came up with a brief resistance before Robin began his act. He removed de Silva and Ranatunga and then the rest caved in without any fight. The last wicket being a catch by Tendulkar, an apt way for the match to end. After all this man had given the team the thrust with that wonderful show at Bristol, and now Dravid and Ganguly kept the good work going.

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