All over in a couple of hours

Sri Lankan bowler Prabath Nissanka celebrates as he takes the wicket of Canada's Ishwar Maraj. Nissanka bagged four wickets.-— Pic. REUTERS

THOSE who planned an afternoon visit to bask under the sun or the ones delayed at work would have been in for a nasty surprise as they came to the pretty Paarl ground for the Group `B' encounter between Sri Lanka and Canada.

THOSE who planned an afternoon visit to bask under the sun or the ones delayed at work would have been in for a nasty surprise as they came to the pretty Paarl ground for the Group `B' encounter between Sri Lanka and Canada.

There was no action out in the middle, yet there wasn't any rain that might have led to a stoppage. There certainly was no bomb scare either. Had they come to the wrong venue... or had the cricketers vanished into thin air!

The reason was simple enough really. The game was over! In just 23.2 overs, the second shortest match in one-day internationals. Poor Canadians, they did not quite know what hit them.

It was indeed a ridiculously easy kill for the Lankans, who skittled out the Canadians for 36 - the lowest score in ODIs beating Zimbabwe's 38 — in just 18.4 overs and 105 minutes and then hitting up the runs in only 4.4 overs, for the loss of skipper Sanath Jayasuriya's wicket.

"I didn't expect to knock them over that soon. It wasn't a bad wicket. Nissanka in particular bowled wicket-to-wicket and got the reward," a beaming Jayasuriya said.

Indeed, the powerfully built Prabhath Nissanka was on the mark for the Lankans, hitting the right length from his first over, where he had opener John Davison caught behind off a delivery that nipped back to find the inside edge. The beginning of the horror ride for the Canadians really.

"It is very disappointing to lose like that. We were playing one of the best sides in the world, but the wicket was a decent track on which to bat. We just let the pressure get to us," admitted Canadian captain Joe Harris.

Jayasuriya called right and the Lankan pacemen the in-form Chaminda Vaas, Nissanka and Dilhara Fernando — accounted for nine wickets between them, even as the Canadian batsmen came up woefully short technically and temperamentally, none reaching double figures.

Nissanka (four for 12), adjudged the Man of the Match, and Vaas (three for 15) brushed aside the Canadian top and middle-order to leave the side reeling at 21 for seven, and paceman Dilhara Fernando and off-spin ace Muttiah Muralitharan, who sent down just 2.4 overs this time, accounted for the tail.

Vaas, who is having a wonderful tournament, claimed the valuable wicket of Ian Billcliff, trapped leg-before for one, and given the inexperience in the side, the Canadians had little chance of recovering after this setback. Billcliff had top-scored against Bangladesh and made a half-century at the expense of the Kenyans.

Once again, Vaas pitched the ball up and moved it around to make life difficult for the batsmen. ``"We bowled really well and the ball was seaming. We wanted them out as soon as possible, and to do it so quickly will be a great boost for our run-rate, he said.''

Interestingly, it was Vaas, who claimed eight for 19, as Zimbabwe was dismissed for 38, the lowest ODI total till this game, at the Sinhalese Sports Club stadium, last year. Actually, that game had ended even faster... off just 120 balls.

This time, the Lankan pacemen hunted the hapless Canadian batsmen in a pack. And Canada's 36 beat its own 45 against England in the '79 edition, as the lowest World Cup score.

It was a day when both Vaas, who achieved a remarkable hat-trick off the first three balls of the match against Bangladesh at Pietermaritzburg, and Nissanka, claimed two wickets off successive deliveries, missing out on the third.

After the pacemen had carried out the demolition job, elegant opener Marvan Atapattu struck four pleasing boundaries to remain unbeaten with 24, and although the Lankans lost captain Jayasuriya for nine, adjudged leg-before to the burly Sanjayan Thuraisingam, it was all over in 4.4 overs.

The Lankans, who now hold the record for the two best bowling displays in ODIs, had notched up their third straight win in `Pool B', apart from giving a huge boost to their net run-rate.

For Canada, it was a match they would like to forget in a hurry. Harris said at the end, "We have to be realistic. It's a game of cricket. When Test nations get out for 40s, we should not be ashamed of ourselves. It's a setback... we got ourselves out. We are not professional cricketers. We target teams that we can beat.''Truth to tell, the Canadians did put up a fine display in the first two games, defeating Bangladesh and giving the Kenyans a run for their money. But the mean Lankans were a different proposition altogether.

The scores:

Canada: D. Chumney c Sangakkara b Vaas 9; J. Davison c Sangakkara b Nissanka 0; F. Samad lbw b Vaas 0; I. Billcliff lbw b Vaas 1; N. De Groot lbw b Nissanka 0; J. Harris ht. wkt. b Nissanka 9; I. Maraj lbw b Nissanka 0; A. Bagai c Jayawardene b Fernando 6; S. Thuraisingam lbw b Fernando 6; A. Codrington b Muralitharan 0; B. Seebaran (not out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-2, nb-1) 5; Total (in 18.4 overs) 36.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-6, 3-11, 4-12, 5-12, 6-12, 7-21, 8-31, 9-36.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 7-4-15-3, Nissanka 7-1-12-4, Muralitharan 2.4-0-3-1, Fernando 2-0-4-2.

Sri Lanka: M. Atapattu (not out) 24; S. Jayasuriya lbw b Thuraisingam 9; K. Sangakkara (not out) 4; Extras 0; Total (for one wicket in 4.4 overs) 37.

Fall of wicket: 23.

Canada bowling: Thuraisingam 2.4-0-22-1, Davison 2-0-15-0.