Murali's bagful of tricks

A Murali special beats Jacob Oram all ends up.-K.R. DEEPAK

It was a day when both New Zealand's batting and bowling failed. Over to G. VISWANATH.

The tussle between the New Zealand speedster Shane Bond and Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga at the Brabourne Stadium was thrilling. On the other hand, Muttiah Muralitharan was his customary self, mesmerising the batsmen and giving marching orders to four, including Jacob Oram, who tried to guard his off-stump, but lost the middle and leg. It was indeed a fantastic delivery from Murali. On the day, when the pitch had received a coating of a builder's adhesive to firm up the top, Bond failed to deliver for his side, after missing the first match against South Africa because of sore spine tissue.

New Zealand wanted Bond to take wickets in a clutch in his opening burst. Tharanga offered hope. He did not pick Bond's line and length and floundered against bounce. It was a terrific sight. But the left-hander put up a stout defence to parry a beamer, and stayed to make a half century. On the other hand, Jayasuriya, a past master in playing the rough game, won a short battle with Bond, who wavered in direction, but generated pace, which only a brave heart is capable of playing without flinching. Jayasuriya once dumped Bond well over the cover fence and signalled the end of a contest as Sri Lanka, chasing New Zealand's 165, got off to a roaring start. Thereafter Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene brought Sri Lanka closer to the target.

Jayawardene and coach Tom Moody had done their homework well. They made one change from the team that had lost to Pakistan in Jaipur, bringing in batsman Chamara Kapudegara, who of course did not have to bat. The reverse against Pakistan upset the Lankans, but Moody said having won 10 matches in a row, the momentum was still with his team. Moody, without giving an impression of being annoyed, when a Sri Lankan journalist asked him about the logic of Sri Lanka banking on four seamers, said, "That's the logic, it has won us 10 matches.''

New Zealand folded up for 165 a few balls short of 50 overs. It would have been much less had the tailend pair of Daniel Vettori, who batted with purpose, and rookie off spinner, Jeetan Patel, not warded off over 60 balls and added useful runs.

Nathan Astle was the lone batsman who resisted with some good shots on the off side after Fleming had left the scene without scoring a run and the rest of the top order followed him without attempting to stay at the wicket. The Sri Lankan seamers did their work efficiently and Muralitharan backed them with a four-wicket haul to become the highest wicket-taker in the competition, which is being held since 1998. It was also his best on Indian soil.

The quality of the pitch at the Brabourne Stadium was a major topic for discussion. The ICC summoned pitch curator Andy Atkinson from England in order to work on the pitch. Atkinson said it was after the South Africa-New Zealand match that he was informed that the pitch was misbehaving.

"I am going to spray a glue which is available in any hardware shop. It's been used in England, Malaysia and it's nothing new.''

After the match Fleming and Jayawardene approved the ICC's decision. "I have played many times on such pitches at Old Trafford,'' said `Man of the Match' Muralitharan, who has played for Lancashire. Sri Lanka heaved a sigh of relief after a clear-cut victory.

Obviously, Fleming was disappointed on two counts. First his batsmen's inability to counter Muralitharan. "We don't stack up well against him,'' he had said at the pre-match press conference. And, of course, the defeat by a big margin.

THE SCORES

Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, October 20. Sri Lanka won by seven wickets.

New Zealand: L. Vincent b Maharoof 13; S. P. Fleming lbw b Vaas 0; N. J. Astle c Malinga b Muralitharan 42; H. H. Marshall c Dilshan b Malinga 4; S. B. Styris c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 3; J. P. Oram b Muralitharan 6; B. B. McCullum c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 9; D. L. Vettori (not out) 46; K. D. Mills lbw b Muralitharan 6; S. E. Bond c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 1; J. S. Patel c Jayawardene b Malinga 10; Extras (lb 8, w 10, nb 7) 25; Total (49.2 overs) 165.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-37, 3-56, 4-66, 5-82, 6-87, 7-101, 8-115, 9-118.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-1-41-1; Malinga 9.2-1-22-2; Maharoof 8-0-34-1; Jayasuriya 10-0-26-2; Muralitharan 10-1-23-4; Dilshan 2-0-11-0.

Sri Lanka: W. U. Tharanga st McCullum b Patel 56; S. T. Jayasuriya c McCullum b Mills 20; M. D. Jayawardene c Vettori b Patel 48; K. C. Sangakkara (not out) 19; M. S. Atapattu not out 10; Extras (lb 1, w 4, nb 8) 13; Total (for three wkts in 36 overs) 166.

Fall of wickets: 1-45, 2-134, 3-135.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 5-0-24-1; Bond 7-0-46-0; Oram 4-0-14-0; Vettori 10-0-45-0; Patel 9-0-32-2; Astle 1-0-4-0.