A massacre of the innocents

S. DINAKAR

FOR a moment it appeared as if someone had caught the moon! Such was the jubilation. Each one of the Dutch fielders rushed towards Tim de Leede who had plucked the ball out of thin air, even as he sprinted to his right at widish long-on, to dismiss Aravinda de Silva.

The sheer enthusiasm of these cricketers from Holland, who have to make several sacrifices to pursue the game in a country where football is the king, had to be seen to be believed.

It is their passion for cricket, that has kept this happy bunch of players from Holland going and as their captain Roland Lefebvre said later, the team would only become better with more exposure.

Marvan Atapattu feasted on the Dutch attack and ran up a century. Here he sweeps Jacob-Jan Esmeijer.-N. BALAJI

The result of the Pool 4 duel was a foregone conclusion. Of course, Holland would be no match for the formidable Sri Lanka. The home team was also fresh from a victory over Pakistan. And the margin of Sri Lanka's victory was huge too, 206 runs to be precise. Yet, the spirit of the Dutchmen shone like a beacon.

Holland is the ICC Associate member champion, but then, Sri Lanka is in a different league altogether. Yet, the Dutch did not disgrace themselves after Sri Lanka elected to bat at the Premadasa Stadium.

Lanka was restricted to 292 for six in 50 overs which meant the limited Dutch bowling had held its own against one of the better batting line-ups in world cricket.

Only opener Marvan Atapattu stayed long enough to make a significant contribution. His 118-ball 101 was a fluent knock, laced with elegant drives and flicks.

Edgar Schiferli is stumped by Kumara Sangakkara off Muttiah Muralitharan.-N. BALAJI

Jayasuriya, who continued to open, belying pre-match predictions that he might drop himself down the order, essayed a few powerful strokes during his 36 off as many balls, before he fell to paceman Victor Grandia.

Kumara Sangakkara, who missed the party against Pakistan, consumed early by Wasim Akram, appeared determined to gain some much needed batting practice and his 41 came off 68 deliveries.

And when he was bowled by off-spinner Adeel Raja, who bowled a steady line, Sangakkara had added 116 runs off 127 balls with Atapattu.

Aravinda was a victim of that brilliant catch, Raja being the bowler, and Mahela Jayawardene could not cash in on a wonderful opportunity to get some runs and only some useful blows towards the end from Russell Arnold and Chaminda Vaas took Lanka near the 300-run mark.

Among the Dutch bowlers, pacemen Edgar Schiferli and Tim de Leede managed to earn a degree of respect, while captain Lefebvre and Raja picked up two wickets each.

Sangakkara is poised to take this snick from Tim de Leede, the bowler being Dilhara Fernando.-N. BALAJI

The Lankan score could have been lesser had the Dutchmen not conceded 18 wides and five no balls. The ground fielding was often brilliant, but a couple of catches were put down. Holland is an inexperienced side, but it will learn.

The Dutch innings was over in 29.3 overs, the score reading just 86. Pacemen Pulasthi Gunaratne and Chaminda Vaas struck the early blows and then spinners, off-spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumara Dharmasena made short work of the middle order and the tail.

Tim de Leede was the lone man to offer resistance, and after he was dismissed, caught behind by Sangakkara off the fiery Dilhara Fernando, it was only a matter of time before Holland folded up.

On a night when the third umpire was consulted more than once, Sangakkara had five victims behind the stumps. And Lanka, with two wins in two games, became the first side to enter the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy.

The scores:

Sri Lanka: S. Jayasuriya c Zuiderent b Grandia 36; M. Atapattu c Oosterom b Lefebvre 101; K. Sangakkara b Raja 41; A. De Silva c De Leede b Raja 23; M. Jayawardene (run out) 14; R. Arnold (not out) 22; C. Vaas c & b Lefebvre 16; M. Muralitharan (not out) 1. Extras: (b-6, lb-9, nb-5, w-18) 38. Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 292.

Fall of wickets: 1-59, 2-175, 3-225, 4-234, 5-247, 6-287.

Holland bowling: Schiferli 7-0-29-0, Grandia 5-0-40-1, Lefebvre 10-0-59-2, De Leede 8-0-37-0, Esmeijer 5-0-36-0, Raja 10-0-50-2, Van Troost 5-0-26-0.

Holland: Van Oosterom c Sangakkara b Gunaratne 0; Van Bunge lbw b Gunaratne 3; B. Zuiderent lbw b Vaas 0; De Leede c Sangakkara b Fernando 31; R. Scholte c Sangakkara b Dharmasena 12; V. Troost b Dharmasena 0; J. Esmeijer c Fernando b Muralitharan 7; A. Raja c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 2; E. Schiferli st. Sangakkara b Muralitharan 15; R. Lefebvre (not out) 4; V. Grandia b Muralitharan 0. Extras (b-4, lb-2, nb-3, w-3) 12. Total (in 27.3 overs) 86.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-4, 3-4, 4-46, 5-52, 6-57, 7-59, 8-81, 9-82.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 6-2-11-1, Gunaratne 4-0-19-2, Fernando 5-0-21-1, Dharmasena 9-3-14-2, Muralitharan 5.3-2-15-4.

The stabilising influence

IN a side of strokemakers, he plays a crucial role. Marvan Atapattu is the sheet anchor, one who holds his end, even as the others wade into the bowling.

Not that Atapattu cannot play shots. In fact, he is one of the sweetest timers of the ball in the Lankan side, and has the habit of finding the gaps.

His sound backfoot play ensures that Atapattu is among the better players when it comes to playing on bouncier pitches away from home. Marvellous Marvan is a rather classy sheet anchor.

Against the Dutch attack at the Premadasa Stadium, Atapattu was not tested much. However, he deserved credit for staying in there, and making the most of the opportunity.

It was a typical Atapattu innings, with the batsman applying himself, rotating the strike and punishing the loose deliveries.

There were some lovely strokes on view during Atapattu's century stand with Sangakkara, such as his off-drive off paceman Tim de Leede, an elegant, effortless stroke. He used his feet well against off-spinner Raja.

When his knock finally ended, (101, 118b, 8x4) Atapattu miscuing a drive off Lefebvre, he had once again played his role adeptly for Lanka.

Looking back, it was an important innings, considering the next highest individual score was Sangakkara's 41.

Holland might have been a lowly opposition, still Sri Lanka required someone to stay at the wicket and play a substantial knock. Atapattu was just the right man.

He has not always been an opener though. During the glory days of the Jayasuriya-Kaluwitharana partnership, Atapattu came in at No. 3, offering solidity to the innings.

His finest hour in limited overs cricket, arrived in the trination finals at Lord's against England, '98, where Atapattu's strokeful century, carried the day for Lanka. In all, he has six ODI hundreds against his name.

Atapattu's has been a tale of courage and character and beneath his soft exterior lies a steely resolve. His talent was never in question, but Atapattu's disastrous start in international cricket left a huge question mark over his temperament.

There were some who believed he could never make it in the international arena.

He has proved those doubters wrong, displaying the strength of mind to bounce back. He certainly deserved to be the Man of the Match against Holland.