Vaas strikes deadly blows

CHAMINDA VAAS made a strong claim to become a leading new ball operator and seamer in the world by claiming the wickets of four West Indian left handers, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara and Ridley Jacobs. In the process Vaas won the match for his side and the `Man of the Match' award.

G. VISWANATH

Sanath Jayasuriya in a punishing mood during his knock of 66.-Pic. REUTERS

CHAMINDA VAAS made a strong claim to become a leading new ball operator and seamer in the world by claiming the wickets of four West Indian left handers, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara and Ridley Jacobs. In the process Vaas won the match for his side and the `Man of the Match' award. He also upstaged his more famous (for different reasons) colleague and match-winner, Muttiah Muralitharan, with deadly spells.

Statistics don't always tell the truth: so was this fact of Vaas having taken four wickets and more in a match only half a dozen times in his 214 one-day internationals, but 267 wickets was still a definite pointer to his consistency and that he was capable of solving the problems of his side and the captain.

Sri Lanka arrived in Cape Town, a battered side, having lost to Kenya. Sanath Jayasuriya did not give credit to Kenya's victory at the Nairobi Gymkhana, accusing his teammates of playing like amateurs.

Except for Jayasuriya's century (120) against New Zealand in the first match of the World Cup for both teams and Vaas' hat-trick and six-wicket haul against Bangladesh, the other performances were ordinary. Sri Lanka's aim was to get the better of the West Indies and be among the top three in their section.

Jayasuriya dug his toes in at Newlands after winning the toss and electing to bat. The result of his 99-minute resolve was a commendable 66. He felt the pressure and succumbed to it. The rest of the batsmen garnered 162 runs, not sufficient to alarm the West Indies.

The West Indies bowlers, Mervyn Dillon and Vasbert Drakes bowled with purpose and restricted the Sri Lankan batsmen, but together had only one wicket to show for in their twenty overs. Chris Gayle offered support. At the end of the first session, the West Indies appeared to be in with a chance, looking at a target of 229.

Seamers getting advantage under the lights had dominated pre-match forecasts. Pakistan's captain Waqar Younis made a statement that the toss would decide a day-night match. He was annoyed after his team lost to England, batting second. This is an issue the ICC will have to grapple with, but it will get sufficient time to introspect before the next World Cup in the West Indies.

The Sri Lankan captain saw a ray of hope in the argument that the ball tended to move a little more in the air and off the pitch during twilight. His weapon was Vaas, though Pulasti Gunaratne had recovered from his finger injury, and Dilhara Fernando was there too.

Vaas got into his rhythm and struck in his tenth ball. Wavell Hinds played a rash shot and from then the West Indians followed a path that led to the debacle. Ramnaresh Sarwan showed what batsmanship is all about — skills and strokes, and demonstration of spirit and valour.

The West Indies players must have been nervous when Sarwan went to bat straight from the hospital when his team needed 60 runs to win. He hammered the ball straight down the ground and over the ropes, but coming so late down the order was not enough for him to carry the day for his team. The West Indies lost by six runs.

Their main tormentor was Vaas. His captain gave him due importance and tossed the ball at the right time. Gunaratne also played his part in bowling a maiden over to Lara, who looked edgy. The left hander did not open his account until the 18th ball he faced. A fielder challenged him, but Lara managed to ground his bat.

Jayasuriya did not remove Vaas, until Lara was in the middle. The bowler won the battle in his fifth over (Sri Lanka's ninth). Lara trying to cover the line,edged and nicked to Kumara Sangakkara and `walked'. The head injury to Sarwan — hit by a rising delivery from Fernando — compounded the problems for the West Indies; Sarwan was taken to the hospital and Hooper got out to a first ball duck.

The doughty Shivnarine Chanderpaul stood between Sri Lanka and victory. There are some good qualities about Chanderpaul; he doesn't throw his wicket cheaply. He worked the ball around and ran hard with Vasbert Drakes. It appeared that he would take the West Indies across the finishing line, but he decided to give the charge too soon and gave off spinner Aravinda de Silva his 100th wicket.

The circumstances produced a fine contest. Sri Lanka was charged up after the defeat against Kenya. The West Indies had lost to New Zealand and shared four points with Bangladesh because of rain. In most cases, the fielding team holds its nerves in a close match; the Sri Lankans did not wilt under pressure.

The highlights were Jayasuriya's gritty 66, a matching effort from Chanderpaul and of course Sarwan's readiness to confront the odds, but it was another match in which a bowler played his part well. Vaas bowled ten immaculate overs, conceded 22 runs, captured four important wickets and won the match for Sri Lanka.

The scores:

Sri Lanka: Marvan Atapattu (run out) 3; Sanath Jayasuriya c Chanderpaul b Gayle 66; Hashan Tillakaratne b Hinds 36; Aravinda de Silva (run out) 13; Mahela Jayawardene c Powell b Hooper 9; Russel Arnold (not out) 34; Kumar Sangakkara c Lara b Drakes 24; Chaminda Vaas (not out) 28; Extras (lb-5, w-8, nb-2) 15; Total (for six wickets in 50 overs) 228.

Fall of wickets: 1-11, 2-96, 3-113, 4-131, 5-139, 6-178.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-0-30-0, Collins 10-0-62-0, Drakes 10-1-32-1, Hooper 6-0-30-1, Hinds 4-0-27-1, Gayle 10-0-42-1.

West Indies: C. Gayle lbw b Vaas 55; W. Hinds c Jayasuriya b Vaas 2; B. Lara c Sangakkara b Vaas 1; R. Sarwan (not out) 47; C. Hooper lbw b Fernando 0; S. Chanderpaul c Atapattu b De Silva 65; R. Jacobs c Sangakkara b Vaas 0; R. Powell b Muralitharan 1; V. Drakes c Vaas b Jayasuriya 25; M. Dillon (run out) 4; P. Collins (not out) 1; Extras (lb-6, w-12, nb-3) 21; Total (for nine wickets in 50 overs) 222.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-27, 3-62, 4-121, 5-121, 6-122, 7-169, 8-186, 9-219.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-3-22-4, Gunaratne 6-1-41-0, De Silva 10-0-48-1, Fernando 6-0-33-1, Muralitharan 10-1-26-1, Jayasuriya 8-0-46-1.