India hold their nerve to take Lanka's Nidahas trophy

by Sa'adi Thawfeeq

8 August 1998

Following three completely washed out matches without a ball bowled at Galle, and two matches ending in no-results due to bad weather, the Singer-Akai Nidahas trophy triangular final between India and Sri Lanka played at the R. Premadasa Stadium under lights to an audience of over 30,000 spectators had everything to compensate for the earlier disappointments. Both sides made over 300 runs each, there was a new world record for the first wicket, three batsmen scored centuries and a fine bowling spell by India's fast-rising seamer Ajit Agarkar, which put the brakes on a Sri Lankan victory.

If India ran out winners, it was because they held their nerve. Sri Lanka, lost because they panicked. At one stage of the game, Sri Lanka were on course for victory, with Aravinda de Silva once again showing his tendency to excel on the big occasion. The Sri Lankan vice-captain made 105 off 94 balls, mostly with a runner because of a groin strain. But the saddest part was all that good work was thrown away by the late order batsmen, who failed to score the required 35 runs for victory off the remaining 39 balls, after his dismissal.

The last three wickets fell to run outs which showed how disorganised the batsmen were in gathering the remaining runs. From the outset, India under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin showed they were the more organised team in the competition. Without a proper fast bowling combination, Sri Lanka struggled in the opening overs to contain the opposing team and it was no surprise when Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly, who had shared a century opening partnership in the first game of the competition against Sri Lanka, went one rung higher in the final to establish a new first wicket record of 252 runs. Both batsmen completed centuries to give India a tremendous launching pad in the final.

India reached 307 for six off their 50 overs, which still looked insufficient after such a flying start. The fear was always there that Sri Lanka with their powerful batting line-up were always capable of chasing the total successfully. They were not far from achieving that when they lost by a mere six runs. Thus, India returned the compliment by taking away Sri Lanka's independence cup. Sri Lanka had done the same to India last year.

De Silva and Tendulkar emerged the two most outstanding batsmen in the tournament, each providing the spectators a choice of their spectacular individual stroke-play. Not for the first time, De Silva was the tournament's leading run-getter aggregating 368 runs and topping the batting with an average of 73.60. Tendulkar had the second highest aggregate with 263 runs, which he accumulated at a tremendous pace and at a strike rate of 112.87, which was easily the fastest in the tournament. Following a tremendous 1997, Sanath Jayasuriya is still finding his feet in trying to repeat his past exploits with the bat. The Sri Lankan opener once again had moderate returns, but compensated for it to some extent by recapturing his bowling form to finish with nine wickets and an economy rate of less than four runs an over, which was very encouraging considering Sri Lanka's plight with their opening bowlers.

The youthful Agarkar was the leading wicket-taker in the competition with 12 wickets at a cost of 18.33. What puts him a notch above the rest of the bowlers is that eight of the wickets were of top order batsmen. He took the wickets of Jayasuriya, Kaluwitharana, De Silva and Ranatunga in the final. What more could a captain ask for.

Following their loss in the Test series to Sri Lanka, New Zealand were always going to look vulnerable against spin especially in the sub-continent. They failed to make any impression on either India or Sri Lanka and returned home a disappointed lot failing to win any of their four matches in the tournament.

Source: The Daily News

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Date-stamped : 08 Aug1998 - 10:22