Friday, April 13, 2007

Sri Lanka over New Zealand, by a lot

Despite the odd upset here and there, I think the World Cup has been playing true to record. The teams who have established consistent records as world beaters regularly come through. The teams with lesser records don’t.

Which is why the New Zealand-Sri Lanka game was such a delight in the making. Two dark horses – neither expected to win it all – but both perfectly capable of doing so met at St. George’s today.

Unfortunately it was a game devoid of the thrills I was expecting.

Sri Lanka is said to have the best bowling attack in this World Cup. That is definitely a huge source of strength for them. And on the batting side, well they have Sanath Jayasurya. And these strengths kicked in as the Lions dismantled the Black Caps by as much as six wickets. And there were two major performances that led the way for Sri Lanka.

First Chaminda Vaas (who was voted Man of the Match) took out the top order batsmen to put New Zealand on the run. Here, Vaas has his wicketkeeper to thank. Kumara Sangakarra has turned in bravura performances behind the wicket for Sri Lanka and his courageous close-wicket keeping to Vaas has allowed the bowler to feel confident that the batsmen won’t exploit his speed to step out and drive. Still Vaas’ reduced pace allows little margin for error in this scenario and has led me to doubt him in the past. That he consistently bowls a wicket to wicket line and rarely tries to get cute is to his credit.

When Sri Lanka came out to bat, New Zealand really needed a pitch-perfect performance to put pressure on their batsmen. They started horrendously with wides and extras ticking the scoreboard along. You could say New Zealand was tacky on the field today – they dropped catches like hot potatoes – but I would counter that Jayasurya at the crease looking at the bowlers with murderous intent is enough to give any fielding side the jitters.

Jayasurya paid his dues to Shane Bond who bowled a searching spell under a lot of pressure. And he played Daniel Vettori with respect from within the crease. But he dug heartily into James Franklin and Mark Gillespie with delicious timing and power. By the time he left, Sri Lanka was galloping along having put 130 on the board at the 25 over mark.

All someone had to do was bat sensibly and see Sri Lanka home. And although Chamara Silva seemed to miss that point, Sangakkara started by unfurling a terrific cover drive on bended knee but then batted sedately and sanely to see his team home.
Both New Zealand and Sri Lanka will make the semis along with South Africa and Australia although no one would be happier than me to see this form book rewritten. But for now, these games between the top four serve the purpose of establishing a psychological advantage for the semi finals.

Advantage: Sri Lanka over New Zealand.


Kalyan said...

I think this match would have given lots of re thinking on NZ side.Going into semis it is highly likely that these two teams may meet again.I agree Vaas and Jaya Surya are key for SriLankan's win on each match.I feel over all NZ is good batting side and Sri Lanka is an alround performing team.Sangakra and Jayawardane haven't yet striken big in this tournament.Advantage of SL over NZ is Vaas,JayaSrya and Murali.

Unknown said...

I think tomorrow's match will decide the semifinals pretty much. If SA beat NZ, they will face SL otherwise they'll be up against Australia.