Aravinda exudes class

ARAVINDA DE SILVA was the toast of Sri Lanka in Asia's second World Cup extravaganza. It was a pleasurable pastime watching De Silva get his foot on the gas pedal so quickly.


ARAVINDA DE SILVA was the toast of Sri Lanka in Asia's second World Cup extravaganza. It was a pleasurable pastime watching De Silva get his foot on the gas pedal so quickly. Like most Sri Lankan batsmen, De Silva doesn't like his natural strokeplay to be curbed. He is also not wanting in technique.

De Silva led the Sri Lankan charge and finished it with a magnificent unconquered 107 against Australia at Lahore — a venue that was neutral for the finalists. He accumulated 448 runs in six matches and scored two centuries (145 and 107) and as many half centuries. He was robbed of an opportunity to score more runs because two teams — Australia and the West Indies — refused to play in Colombo citing security threats and danger to life.

His second century in the championship (107 in the final) was a special effort. The World Cup started in India with a blazing century by Kiwi Nathan Astle against England in Ahmedabad. The following day at Rawalpindi, South African Gary Kirsten buried Vivian Richards' batting record by stroking freely against the UAE side. In Cuttack, Sachin Tendulkar set his run-machine into motion with a fine unbeaten 127 against Kenya.

For the Sri Lankans it became a week of anticipation and agony. But when their time arrived, they dismissed Zimbabwe without batting an eyelid. Victory by six wickets and 13 overs to spare was a wonderful achievement, thanks to De Silva's 86-ball 91 with 10 fours and two sixes. Anil Kumble got the better of him 10 days later in Delhi, but De Silva was back in form with a 115-ball 145 against Kenya in Kandy.

His role was limited in the quarterfinals against England because Sanath Jayasuriya had already pummelled the opponents. Sri Lanka won by the handsome margin of five wickets, De Silva's contribution being 31.

As the World Cup moved into the crunch games, De Silva steeled himself. It was important that as the leading batsman in the side he remained alive to the circumstances. The strikes by Javagal Srinath in the semi-final in Calcutta rattled the Sri Lankans initially. Sanath Jayasuriya and Asanka Gurusinha were dismissed for one run each and Romesh Kaluwitharana for zero.

Roshan Mahanama and De Silva took charge of things from here on. Mahanama faced 101 balls to make 58, but De Silva made 66 off 47 balls with an incredible 14 boundary hits.

Then, his performance in the final was simply fantastic. First he got the wickets of Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting and Ian Healy and held catches from Steve Waugh and Stuart Law. Subsequently he cracked a great 107 off 124 balls with 13 fours.

Mark Waugh made 130 (130 balls, 14x4, 1x6) against Kenya, 126 (135 balls, 8x4, 3x6) against India and 110 (112 balls, 6x4, 2x6) against New Zealand. His scores in the other matches were 76 not out against Zimbabwe, 30 against the West Indies, zero against the West Indies in the semifinals and 12 against Sri Lanka in the final.

It was the first instance of a batsman scoring three hundreds in the World Cup. His 112-ball 110 against New Zealand in Madras was a brilliant effort because his team was chasing a massive 286. New Zealand was able to reach so far because of an out of the world performance by Chris Harris who made 130 off 124 balls with 13 fours and four sixes.

Mark and his twin Steve are poles apart in the manner of their batting. Steve always appears to be gritty and ready to battle it out. Mark is quite the opposite. He has great strokes in his repertoire and unfailingly executes them in style. That's what made him leave an impression in the sixth World Cup, in particular in India.

Sachin Tendulkar was far ahead of the pack in the batting figures. To say that he was in form would be an understatement. He made two centuries (137 against Sri Lanka in Delhi and 127 not out against Kenya at Cuttack) and three half centuries (70 against the West Indies, 90 against Australia and 65 against Sri Lanka in the semifinal).

Tendulkar was India's top scorer — in fact he scored more than 50 per cent of what the home team made on a fast deteriorating pitch in Calcutta — in the semifinal — before becoming one of Sanath Jayasuriya's three victims. From 98 for two India collapsed to 120 for eight in 34. 1 overs, with the Match Referee Clive Lloyd awarding the match to Sri Lanka because of crowd disturbance.

It was rather unfortunate that India's campaign ended in the midst of such deplorable events at the Eden Gardens. Tendulkar's attacking and consistent batting made India a force to reckon with before the Sri Lankans exploited the conditions to turn the tables on India. But Tendulkar had happy memories to take from the Wills World Cup.

Gary Kirsten began very well at Rawalpindi. He was one left hander who was reasonably successful in making runs. His 159-ball 188 against UAE had 13 fours and four sixes. But he might not even remember the bowlers against whom he scored all the runs. Today, he might even walk past the UAE bowlers, Samarasekara, Shahzad Altaf, Arshad Liaq, Shaukat Dukanwala, Azhar Saeed, Zarawani and Mazhar Hussain without recognising them.

Kirsten was not as prolific in the following matches. He made 35 against New Zealand, 38 against England, 44 against Pakistan, 83 against Holland and 3 in the quarterfinals against the West Indies in Karachi. He was hit wicket bowled by Curtly Ambrose. Kirsten totalled 391 runs.

Saeed Anwar was a batsman Pakistan depended on largely to get a rousing start. He made 329 runs from six innings with three 50s and generally handled the new ball well. Anwar scored runs a little faster than his opening partner Aamir Sohail. Anwar made a 32-ball 48 with five fours and two sixes in the quarterfinals against India at Bangalore, but Pakistan fell short of India's high total of 287.