Thrilling fare


Marcus Trescothick pulls Nuwan Zoysa to the fence during his match-winning knock.-N. SRIDHARAN

THERE was a scintillating batting performance from the Sri Lankan captain and a smart and sensible effort from an England opener. The knocks had a stunning effect on the players of both the teams and the spectators. Together, the batting exploits of Sanath Jayasuriya and Marcus Trescothick provided thrilling fare at the Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds. But at the end of the shortened game of 32 overs each, there was frustration for the Sri Lankan skipper as he made 112 and still lost the match. The outcome of a majority of the contests in one-day cricket is decided by the batsmen, and a big hundred by one of them almost ensures a victory. But Sanath Jayasuriya's extraordinary effort was an exception. England opener, Trescothick, stole the limelight from Jayasuriya. A total of 481 runs were scored in 380 balls in a match reduced to two thirds of a normal game because of rain. The umpires made a few inspections before deciding to start the match at 2.45 p.m. GMT. It must also be said that the groundstaff, well-equipped with assorted equipment, constantly drained out the water and readied the ground. A large area, square of the wicket, was covered with plastic sheets, as well as the bowlers run up at both ends. The pitch, of course, was given the maximum protection. The authorities of cricket grounds all over the world follow a standard method to look after the pitch, the centre plot and some areas of the outfield. Nobody wants the spectators to return home disappointed. The Yorkshire CCC did not lose hope, in spite of the threat of rain looming large and ruining the entire match.

Darren Gough was the pick of the English bowlers and took three wickets. Here he is congratulated by his team-mates for dismissing Romesh Kaluwitharana.-N. SRIDHARAN

The sun played hide and seek, but the forecast of a dry spell after 3 p.m. turned out to be true. After the second inspection at 2 p.m. the umpires, Steve Bucknor and Neil Mallender, made an official announcement that they would start the match at 2.45 p.m. It was good news for the small crowd which swelled to some proportions as the match advanced to a thrilling finish. They got the best bargain even after rain had taken away 36 overs of the match.

Teams are generally not prepared to switch over to a new plan of action when there is weather interference. Fortunately Sri Lanka and England knew long before that rain would delay the start and not come down heavily during the course of the match. England's decision to field was the first tactical move that was made as a result of the four-hour delay. It was a wise move because the team batting second would be in a better position to plan a chase and Hussain did not hesitate to put Sri Lanka in. There is nothing much the bowlers can do when a batsman like Jayasuriya sends the ball flying to all parts of the ground. Darren Gough, who returned to the England attack, gave away 45 from seven overs. Mathew Hoggard's sorry plight continued. He conceded 53 runs off four overs. James Kirtley went for 37 runs off six, Paul Collingwood 49 off five and Ronnie Irani 27 from three overs. There was an exception though as Andrew Flintoff bowled seven overs for 18 runs and took two wickets. After the dismissal of Romesh Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu scored 92 off 86 balls. This was the brightest stand, thanks mainly to the aggressive batting of Jayasuriya. Lower in the order, Upul Chandana made 30 off 13 balls. Jayasuriya departed at 201 in the 28th over. In the remaining 27 balls Sri Lanka made 39 runs; Jayasuriya's presence might have have given a few more.

Mahela Jayawardene departs, bowled by Andrew Flintoff.-N. SRIDHARAN

England had to chase the huge target and had an opening pair capable of taking on the challenge straightaway. Nick Knight fell to the fourth ball of the first over bowled by Chaminda Vaas. Victory was in sight at the fall of every wicket for Sri Lanka. Hussain promoted Irani and Flintoff to throw their bat around. The two added 47 off 41 balls. The danger man was always going to be Trescothick. England fought the battle as a team, with Trescothick in the forefront. There was always the promise of runs coming as long as there was a pair of decent batsmen in the middle.

Sri Lanka appeared to have crossed a big hurdle when Trescothick (82, 60b, 11 x 4s) fell at 171 (21. 2 overs). His dismissal was a big gain but Sri Lanka did not have the calibre of Vaas to keep Alec Stewart (38 not out, 31 b. 1 x 6, 5 x 4s) and Paul Collingwood (36b, 2 x 4s) quiet. This pair ran away with the match for England with four balls remaining.

The scores:

Sri Lanka: S. Jayasuriya c Kirtley b Hoggard 112; R. Kaluwitharana c Hussain b Gough 7; M. Atapattu c Stewart b Flintoff 18; M. Jayawardene b Flintoff 4; A. Gunawardene (run out) 20; U. Chandana lbw b Gough 30; R. Arnold (not out) 17; C. Vaas b Gough 4; K. Sangakkara (not out) 1; Extras (lb-11, nb-3, w-13) 27. Total (for seven wkts. in 32 overs) 240.

Sanath Jayasuriya finally struck form with a superb hundred but his knock wasn't enough to give victory to his side. Jayasuriya had some consolation, though, as he was later named the 'Man of the Match.'-N. SRIDHARAN

Fall of wkts: 1-26, 2-118, 3-132, 4-171, 5-201, 6-225, 7-233.

England bowling: Gough 7-0-45-3, Hoggard 4-0-53-1, Kirtley 6-1-37-0, Flintoff 7-0-18-2, Collingwood 5-0-49-0, Irani 3-0-27-0.

England: M. Trescothick c Vaas b Jayasuriya 82; N. Knight c & b Vaas 0; R. Irani c Jayawardene b Vaas 27; A. Flintoff c Jayawardene b Arnold 20; N. Hussain c Gunawardene b D. Fernando 0; G. Thorpe (run out) 15; P. Collingwood b D. Fernando 38; A. Stewart (not out) 38; D. Gough (not out) 3; Extras (lb-3, nb-5, w-10) 18. Total (for seven wkts. in 31.2 overs) 241.

Fall of wkts: 1-1, 2-69, 3-97, 4-98, 5-126, 6-171, 7-237.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 6-0-39-2, Zoysa 5.2-0-54-0, Arnold 5-0-42-1, D. Fernando 6-0-38-2, Chandana 5-0-40-0, Jayasuriya 4-0-25-1.

Some consolation

SANATH JAYASURIYA finally struck form with a splendid 112 against England in the shortened game at Leeds. It has been a hard tour of England for him, the case of a batsman struggling to find his touch on English soil. Jayasuriya, though, is not an exception. The best batsmen in the world have taken their own time to make runs in England. He was a flop in the three Test series and with his match-winner Muttiah Muralitharan's shoulder not in good shape, he lost the series, too, to England. All this made matters worse for him. He tried to make amends in the one-day series. It is in the shorter version of the game, that he has often come up with some sizzling knocks and captured the imagination of the people. He did not pick the Indian attack at The Oval to make his first big score in three months, although he showed glimpses of doing so before Ajit Agarkar got rid of him from the middle. He might have even cut and carved the England attack before at Trent Bridge, but the home team's captain Nasser Hussain had come in the way of a rasping cover drive. With time running out Jayasuriya had to put an end to his miserable run. Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene believe in technique, but technique and toil are not in the cricketing dictionary of the Sri Lankan skipper. He has always believed in smashing the ball on the up, opening the face of the bat to send the ball over cover point and backward of point and using the bottom hand to put the ball away high and over the square leg fielder and into the stands.

Such efforts are always delightful to watch and scintillating. Bowlers are used to receiving rough treatment from the Sri Lankan opener. It was the first time though that Jayasuriya was enjoying success against England in 15 one-day internationals. The skyward to skyward arc of the bat was a familiar sight, the contact with the ball made in between. Andrew Flintoff was the only England bowler who escaped punishment. The rest of the line-up that had Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and James Kirtley was all hammered during the course of his 87-ball knock that was studded with 14 boundary shots, nine fours and five sixes.

For all the hard work, Jayasuriya received only the consolation prize, his 12th century did not win the match for Sri Lanka.