Shrugging off misfortune

ABDUL RAZZAQ came up with a stupendous allround show.-R.V. MOORTHY

Pakistan had a huge dope-spawned crisis on its hands, but it had the character to take it in its stride and defeat Sri Lanka. VIJAY LOKAPALLY reports.

For a team shattered on the eve of its first match in a major tournament, Pakistan's emphatic performance was in keeping with its reputation. It had risen from the brink on many occasions and the challenge posed by Sri Lanka, in Pakistan's opening encounter of the ICC Champions Trophy, only brought the best out of the team.

Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif failing a drug test was a major blow to Pakistan. This was something many had suspected, but then few would have imagined the dramatic circumstances in which the two were `trapped' by their own men.

The Pakistan Cricket Board, prompted by coach Bob Woolmer, had taken the initiative of conducting dope tests before the Champions Trophy. As Woolmer admitted, this was done to pre-empt trouble at the Champions Trophy since the ICC had decided to carry out random tests during the tournament.

"We missed Akhtar and Asif," said Pakistan skipper Younis Khan. Did he really miss them? The first 10 overs suggested that there could be trouble for Pakistan as Sanath Jayasuriya indulged in his favourite pastime of slamming the ball all over the park. "We were nowhere during that period," recalled Younis.

But gradually the advantage shifted and Pakistan gained a grip over a match that Sri Lanka was fancied to win. "I have faith in my boys," Woolmer had emphasised on the eve of the match. He must have been delighted to see the team finish the job assigned to it in style.

It was clear that the seniors would have to play the dominant role in either camp. Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Muthiah Muralitharan were the key players in the Sri Lankan camp, while Pakistan looked to Younis, Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq.

"We had strictly told youngsters like Kamran (Akmal) and (Shoaib) Malik that they needed to get runs in singles, no big shots, and the seniors would go after the bowlers. I am happy we played as we had planned," said Younis.

Sri Lanka took the positive step by electing to bat and the flying start that Jayasuriya gave livened up the contest from the beginning. There was a purpose behind Jayasuriya's onslaught. He was, as always, keen to grab the initiative, but credit should be given to Younis for maintaining his composure. "They call me cool captain," he pointed out.

Once Jayasuriya fell to a compulsive shot, the Sri Lankan innings lost momentum. It was also the right time for the Pakistan spinners — Malik, Hafeez and Shahid Afridi — to contribute even as Younis worked out ways to keep things under control.

He was supported by Razzaq, the under-rated all-rounder, who confessed he was not very happy with the way he had been handled by captains. Razzaq used the old ball very effectively to push Sri Lanka on the defensive. "I am happy I could contribute when the team needed me. I just stuck to the basics of line and length and I knew once the pressure mounted the batsmen would become desperate," said Razzaq, who was adjudged the `Man of the Match'.

The Pakistan reply was based mainly on the belief that the target was reachable as the batting had depth. "Our batsmen had been affected by the unfortunate happenings before the match," noted Younis. There was merit in this statement, but things fell into place once the team was given a racy start.

True, the dismissal of Hafeez was a jolt, but the presence of Imran Farhat and the assuring hand of Mohammad Yousuf made up for the cheap dismissals of Younis and Afridi.

"They played very well. I think we fell short by 30 runs. Our middle order let us down and I must say we made too many mistakes," said the Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene, obviously disappointed at the turn of events after his team's promising start to the tournament.

After his bowling, Razzaq came up with a stupendous batting show that swung the match Pakistan's way. His robust shots left the Sri Lankan attack in a shambles, despite Muralitharan's attempt to make a fight of it. But Pakistan was the better side that night at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium.

THE SCORES

Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur, October 21. Australia won by six wickets.

England: A. J. Strauss c Gilchrist b Symonds 56; I. R. Bell c Hussey b Watson 43; K. P. Pietersen c Gilchrist b Johnson 1; A. Flintoff c Hussey b Watson 4; M. H. Yardy c Gilchrist b Watson 4; P. D. Collingwood (not out) 22; J. M. Dalrymple c Ponting b Johnson 3; C. W. Read c Gilchrist b McGrath 0; S. I. Mahmood c & b Bracken 8; S. J. Harmison c Gilchrist b Johnson 1; J. M. Anderson b McGrath 15; Extras (lb 3, w 3, nb 6) 12; Total (45 overs) 169.

Fall of wickets: 1-83, 2-84, 3-110, 4-115, 5-125, 6-135, 7-136, 8-150, 9-151.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-3-25-0; Bracken 8-0-38-1; McGrath 9-1-36-2; Johnson 10-0-40-3; Watson 7-0-16-3; Symonds 2-0-11-1.

Australia: A. C. Gilchrist b Mahmood 10; S. R. Watson b Anderson 21; R. T. Ponting c Strauss b Mahmood 1; D. R. Martyn c Read b Harmison 78; M. K. Hussey (not out) 32; A. Symonds (not out) 8; Extras (b 4, lb 5, w 6, nb 5) 20; Total (four wkts in 36.5 overs) 170.

Fall of wickets: 1-30, 2-34, 3-34, 4-152.

England bowling: Anderson 9-2-31-1; Mahmood 10-0-57-2; Harmison 4.5-0-45-1; Yardy 10-1-18-0; Dalrymple 3-0-10-0;