A mismatch at The Wanderers

India was in an unrelenting mood but then none expected the Sri Lankans to succumb in such a manner.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

FORMER Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga was aghast at the manner in which Sri Lanka capitulated at The Wanderers. True, India was in an unrelenting mood but then none expected the Sri Lankans to succumb in such a manner. The massive defeat obviously hurt the emotions of the Lankan supporters, who shouted slogans at the end of the match, denouncing the attitude of the players. The Indian supporters, understandably, were on a high. Once again Sachin Tendulkar had given them reasons to celebrate and the venue was transformed into one big Indian camp, with the tricolour fluttering so proudly.

Javagal Srinath, who produced a dream first spell, exults after getting rid of star batsman Aravinda de Silva. "I dedicate this spell to a dear friend, who passed away recently," an emotional Srinath said later. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

Back to Ranatunga, who brought the World Cup to his country in 1996. "It was very disappointing, no doubt. I saw no reason in Sanath (Jayasuriya) electing to field. It was a defensive move and then they bowled so poorly all through. It was always going to be tough to get to such a formidable target because India had been bowling so well," said Ranatunga.

It was indeed surprising that Jayasuriya opted to field on a pitch, which was full of runs. "It's unfortunate that the young bowlers haven't learnt to put the ball in the right place. We've been talking to them for long but nothing seems to have worked," bemoaned Jayasuriya. Well, with Tendulkar in such splendid form it was difficult for the bowlers to contain the master. The Indians also gained from the return to form of Virender Sehwag, who was at his usual best. "I'm so happy Sehwag applied himself well. It was a good wicket to bat on and it was also good that he continued to play his shots. I've been saying he's a quality player and has the ability to do well. I must say his application to the job was very impressive," said the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly.

The thrilling stand between Tendulkar and Sehwag was the platform on which the big victory was built. "Batting has been our strength and it was important for the team to get a decent start. The openers did more than that and put us in a strong position. I'm glad we all could contribute today because it was a combination of good batting, bowling and fielding," Ganguly added.

The Sri Lankans failed to extract much from the moisture in the pitch and it was a hard journey from the time the bowlers got clobbered, especially the spin trio of Jayasuriya, Russel Arnold and Aravinda de Silva. The Lankans had banked a lot on the slow men after the seamers were belted with the exception of Chaminda Vaas. There was respect for Muttiah Muralitharan too and the off-spinner wilted only in the last two overs. But Sri Lanka clearly lacked the will to fight once the bowlers let the side down.

India was given a great start by `Man of the Match' Javagal Srinath, who produced a dream spell, beating the batsmen with pace and craft. "I dedicate this spell to a dear friend who passed away recently," said an emotional Srinath.

The Indian bowlers had a formidable target to defend, thanks to a vintage innings by Tendulkar, who missed a century narrowly for the second time in the tournament. He missed a century by two runs against Pakistan and this time he fell short by three. It was a good ball that got him against Pakistan but this time a poor shot denied him the honour. It did not matter as long as the team progressed. "What counts more is the team's victory," said Tendulkar on his brilliant knock.

Once India posted a total of 292, it was clear that Sri Lanka needed a big innings from one of its batsmen. The onus was on the batsmen now but Srinath was keen to contribute when his team needed him. "Statistics don't matter to me. What counts is the team's performance and the part I play in winning the match. I'm glad I could contribute in a win," Srinath said.

The Sri Lankans felt the pressure right through but credit should go to Srinath for exploiting the situation. "I thought the Indians bowled pretty well. They put the ball in the right spot, which unfortunately our young bowlers have not learnt to," admitted Jayasuriya.

"How can you expect to win after losing four wickets in four overs?" asked the Lankan skipper. That is what the Indians inflicted on the Sri Lankans — four early wickets and then the fifth followed to take away all competitive flavour from the match. As the Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore assessed, "I don't think we were in the same park as the opposition. There was no fight at all. The players got themselves into this and we all take responsibility. India played very well and should meet Australia in the final."

Not one Sri Lankan batsman had the will to fight it out. Srinath broke the back of the opposition with two wickets in his opening over and then returned to grab the prized scalp of Aravinda de Silva. "His was a big wicket because he's a big match player. I don't know if I bowled fast but I did concentrate on the right line and length," admitted Srinath.

Even as Jayasuriya was pounded by questions relating to certain selections in the team and his decision to bowl first, he put things in the right perspective. "We just didn't bat well. It was a good pitch to bat on but we just didn't apply ourselves. The Indians put enough runs on the board to keep us under pressure. It's not that we've lost to India for the first time, and it's not that we've never beaten them in the past. It happens. We couldn't do anything right in this match," he said.

Ganguly called it a perfect collective show. "It feels nice to win against good teams in such a convincing manner. I think we did everything right. Flawless I must say," concluded the Indian captain.

The scores:

India: S. Tendulkar c Sangakkara b De Silva 97; V. Sehwag c De Silva b Muralitharan 66; S. Ganguly b Vaas 48; M. Kaif b Muralitharan 19; Yuvraj Singh b Vaas 5; R. Dravid (not out) 18; D. Mongia c De Silva b Muralitharan 9; Harbhajan Singh (not out) 7. Extras (b-4, lb-10, w-7, nb-2) 23. Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 292.

Fall of wickets: 1-153, 2-214, 3-243, 4-251, 5-265, 6-277.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-2-34-2, Nissanka 6-0-49-0, Fernando 10-1-61-0, Muralitharan 10-0-46-3, Jayasuriya 3-0-27-0, De Silva 6-0-32-1, Arnold 5-0-30-0.

Sri Lanka: M. Atapattu c Kaif b Srinath 0; S. Jayasuriya c Kaif b Srinath 12; J. Mubarak c Dravid b Srinath 0; M. Jayawardene lbw b Zaheer 0; A. De Silva lbw b Srinath 0; K. Sangakkara c Yuvraj b Nehra 30; R. Arnold lbw b Zaheer 8; C. Vaas c Tendulkar b Nehra 9; P. Nissanka c Kaif b Nehra 0; D. Fernando (not out) 13; M. Muralitharan c Kaif b Nehra 16. Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-14, nb-1) 21. Total (in 23 overs) 109.

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-2, 3-3, 4-15, 5-40, 6-59, 7-75, 8-78, 9-78.

India bowling: Zaheer 7-0-33-2, Srinath 9-1-35-4, Nehra 7-1-35-4.