Sunday, April 29, 2007

The anatomy of Sri Lanka's loss

Although the World Cup ended in rather predictable victory for Australia and a rather comical end for the tournament itself – it was an entertaining game. I’m sure Sri Lankan fans will spend days analyzing where exactly they lost the game.

Mapping the fault line
Was it when Chaminda Vaas was skinned by Adam Gilchrist in the first three overs? Was it when Dilhara Fernando – a borderline selection - was taken apart? Was it the opening partnership of 172 by Australia in just under 23 overs in a rain shortened game? Was it Murali’s failure to stamp his authority? Was it Gilchrist’s lacerating innings itself since it formed the bulk of the score? Was it when Sangakkara left? Or was it when Jayasurya broke hearts by losing his stumps to part-timer Clarke?

Australia on the hunt
The fact is that it was all of those. Against a hyper-performing Australian team, Sri Lanka were constantly with their backs to the wall. And the Australians drove nails into the coffin – quietly , confidently, relentlessly. In the post-match interview no one understood this better than the Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene – who on a personal note finally laid claim to greatness as a batsman in this tournament. “We were always chasing the game” he said.

Gilchrist’s lacerating knock
When Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat first, he hammered in the first nail. On a wicket that was hard and flat with no purchase for the bowlers and slow, nominal turn for anyone tweaking the ball hard his opening batsmen quickly established dominance. Gilchrist, initially struggled with his timing and direction on the off. But he punished the Sri Lankan bowlers with facility when they erred on the leg. And with Hayden sensibly playing within the crease and giving his partner as much strike as possible, Gilchrist slowly regained his mastery on both sides of the wicket.

A terrific lashing followed. The Sri Lankan seamers virtually fell apart- Vaas spraying it around by his own immaculate standards and Fernando barely landing one on an upright seam. Gilchrist made 149 at 1.4 runs a ball and although the re-jigged Australian line up failed to fire after him, the momentum established by him took them to 281.

A shaky beginning for Sri Lanka
Facing a run rate of over 7 an over, Sri Lanka lost Upul Tharanga early – which was a shame because he could have prospered on this wicket. At this point, Nathan Bracken and Shaun Tait both got the ball to jag off the seam a bit. Not huge purchase but enough to give the batsmen pause.

It was this period when Jayasurya - who was forced back in his crease by Gilchrist keeping up to Bracken - and Sangakkara were trying to find their footing that the required run rate shot up. Yet once they had steadied the ship, both batsmen put together the second most entertaining partnership of the game.

A ray of hope
Sangakkara dug into McGrath and unfurled some gorgeous strokes on both sides of the wicket. Jayasurya took a liking to Shane Watson and his power hitting started nipping at the mounting required run rate. Both seemed to understand that on this wicket, all you had to do was use the momentum of the ball on the big shots and chances were the ball would hit the ropes.

It was against the run of play that both fell – and took Sri Lanka’s hopes with them. First Sangakkara misjudged the length from Brad Hogg – who I’ve always felt was overrated – and holed out to Ponting at midwicket.

The final nail
At this point, Ponting took a calculated risk. He brought on Michael Clarke to bowl his off-spinners and issued a direct challenge to Jayasurya. Jayasurya knocked the ball around and scored six of the first five deliveries. Then he jumped out to the final ball of the over. Clarke immediately shortened his length but ended up bowling a long hop. The problem was that it was a terrible delivery that stayed virtually hugged the ground. Jayasurya didn’t have a chance – he lost his stumps.

And that was the final nail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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