Sri Lanka go out favourites today

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

7 July 1998

``We are playing as a closely knit team once again,'' said manager Ranjit Fernando summing up the mood in the Sri Lankan camp as they prepared to take on India in the final of the Singer-Akai Nidahas trophy day/night final commencing 2.30 p.m. at the R. Premadasa Stadium today.

On the evidence of their build up towards the final, the world champions have installed themselves as the favourites to win the trophy. Having lost the opening game of the tournament against India with a performance unworthy of their world status, Sri Lanka have come back strongly to pick up the pieces and register three victories to finish on top of the final league standings.

None of those wins was so convincing as the one over New Zealand in the final league game on Sunday. The Kiwis were totally outplayed in every department as Sri Lanka recorded a resounding 87-run win.

``Our strength is our batting and we should play according to our strengths,'' said Fernando.

``India are a very strong side, but I think we have the edge on the them in the batting. One of the factors that have been to our advantage is that we have been able to put together consistent partnerships. I think we are peaking at the right time,'' said Fernando.

All the top order batsmen have been in the runs with vice-captain Aravinda de Silva leading the fray with 263 runs from four games. Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga returned to timely form with a century in the New Zealand game, while Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Romesh Kaluwitharana have all gone past the half-century mark.

The worrying factor for Sri Lanka is the lack of depth in the bowling, especially in the medium-fast department where Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Suresh Perera have been rather disappointing. Wickremasinghe, the senior and experienced bowler has yet to take a wicket in the competition having conceded 97 runs off 14 overs at a cost of 6.92 runs per over, while Perera's 20 overs have brought him 3 wickets for 117 runs at 5.85 runs per over. On the face of it, the onus will once again fall on the Sri Lankan spinners to deliver the goods.

Sri Lanka's main concern will be the form of former Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar, who has yet to produce a major innings in the tournament. He has twice gone past fifty at a scorching pace only to throw his wicket away when a hundred was there for the asking. India's success in the final revolves largely on the type of contribution this man makes.

The success of India is that they have come through to the final playing an unchanged side throughout the tournament. One could see no reason why they should change the combination for today.

``The two best sides have made it to the final. The one that plays to its potential on the day will win,'' said Indian manager Venkat Sundaram.

``If the weather stays fine and the pitch is firm there is plenty of cricket in this final to make up for all the early disappointments in the tournament,'' said Sundaram.

``The World Cup is quite a long way off, but in youngsters like Ajit Agarkar, Harbajan Singh and Hrishikesh Kanitkar we have players who are adopting to the pressure situations very well,'' he said.

After the frustrations of having five of the scheduled ten qualifying round matches affected by bad weather, the organisers and sponsors are hopeful good weather will prevail and allow the final to go its full distance so that the best team in the competition will take the trophy presented to celebrate the country's fiftieth year of Independence.

The teams:

SRI LANKA (from): A. Ranatunga (captain), S.T. Jayasuriya, R.S. Kaluwitharana, M.S. Atapattu, P.A. de Silva, R.S. Mahanama, U.U. Chandana, H.D.P.K. Dharmasena, M.R.C.N. Bandaratilake, M. Muralitharan, G.P. Wickremasinghe, S.A. Perera, D.P.M. Jayewardene.

INDIA (from): M. Azharuddin (captain), S.C. Ganguly, S.R. Tendulkar, N.R. Mongia, A.D. Jadeja, H.H. Kanitkar, R.R. Singh, A.B. Agarkar, A. Kumble, B.K.V. Prasad, H. Singh, R. Sanghvi.

UMPIRES: K.T. Francis and P. Manuel
TV umpire: B.C. Cooray
Match Referee: C. Smith (West Indies)

Some Statistics

HIGHEST INNINGS TOTAL: 293/4 (50) - Sri Lanka v New Zealand (SSC)

LOWEST INNINGS TOTAL: 200/9 (50) - New Zealand v Sri Lanka (RPS)

HIGHEST INDIVIDUAL INNINGS: 102 - A. Ranatunga, Sri Lanka v New Zealand (SSC)

FASTEST HUNDRED: 95 balls - A. Ranatunga, Sri Lanka v New Zealand (SSC)

FASTEST FIFTY: 33 balls - S.R. Tendulkar, India v New Zealand (RPS)

BEST INDIVIDUAL BOWLING: 4/18 - S.T. Jayasuriya, Sri Lanka v India (SSC)

MOST ECONOMICAL BOWLING: 10-1-24-1 by M. Muralitharan, Sri Lanka v New Zealand (RPS)

Source: The Daily News

Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 07 Jul1998 - 06:16