Monday, April 02, 2007

Jayasurya ignites Sri Lanka

There have been some memorable calisthenics with the bat in the World Cup so far. Matthew Hayden’s ferocious back to back hundreds, AB De Villers’ carving of the Australian attack for 92, Imran Nazir’s 160 in the first game Pakistan played after the Bob Woolmer tragedy and Yuvraj Singh’s astonishing 83 against Bermuda. But Sanath Jayasurya’s 115 of 101 balls for Sri Lanka against the West Indies today was, in my mind, the best knock of the tournament and also one of the great hundreds of the World Cup.

A crucial contest
This was a very important game for both sides. West Indies were virtually out of the tournament and desperately needed to win to keep their flickering hopes alive. Sri Lanka, unable to put it across to South Africa after coming tantalizingly close, needed a win to ignite their Super 8 campaign.

Early problems for the Lions
After a rain delayed start, the Lions were quickly on the back foot to one of the better new ball pairs in this tournament. Jerome Taylor, inexplicably left out in the costly loss to New Zealand, and Ricardo Powell bowled with pace and verve to reduce Sri Lanka to 35 for 2 with the dashing Sangakarra back in the hut.

There was cloud cover and moisture to give the batsmen at the crease pause. And both Mahela Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasurya had begun their World Cup campaigns listlessly enough that their early lack of confidence resulted in a stuttering partnership. Deliveries with width were left unchallenged. Full length deliveries were patted back tamely.

Jayasurya breaks the shackles
But in the 16th over with the final Power Play in effect, Jayasurya opened up. Terry Bradshaw was the unfortunate bowler and he was first struck through mid-off along the ground, the moisture in the field stopping the ball short of the ropes. The next delivery was hooked to the fine leg ropes. Off the final ball, Jayasurya walked out and thumped a four over mid-off.

Over the course of his innings, Jayasurya met the ominous promise in this display by proceeding to dismantle the West Indian bowling attack. Brian Lara scampered to make bowling and fielding changes, but the sight of Jayasurya in the mood is enough to commit bowlers to errors they wouldn’t normally make. And both the bowling and the fielding became increasingly ragged under the left hander’s assault.

An impressive total paves the way to a win
By the time Jayasurya had dragged a Powell delivery on his stumps, he had stamped his authority on the World Cup with a huge knock under pressure. An innings under siege now looked like putting an imposing total on the board.

Later Sri Lanka took the West Indian batting apart with a whip smart performance on the field to register a huge victory. For the first time in this series, they are looking like a team that can take the challenge to Australia and South Africa. And it’s not a coincidence that it comes on the back of their most celebrated ODI performer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You write with so much passion for the game!