SA'ADI THAWFEEQ REPORTING FROM KANDY
for the Daily News
Marvan Atapattu scored his second Test century of his resurrected international career when he made an unblemished century to guide Sri Lanka to a first day total of 265 for four wickets in the first cricket Test against Zimbabwe played at the Asgiriya stadium yesterday.
The stylish opener struck 16 fours and faced 276 balls, batting throughout the day for 363 minutes, to anchor his side to safety in compiling his highest Test score _ 129 which was also the highest made by a Sri Lankan in a Test on this ground. The previous highest was 124 by Duleep Mendis (the present Sri Lanka manager) against India in 1985.
Atapattu also improved on his previous highest score of 108 against India at Mohali last year, after fast bowler Heath Streak had threatened to ruin the Sri Lanka innings by capturing the wickets of Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama for just 11 runs in his first spell of 10 overs.
Jayasuriya was beaten by a ball on the forward stroke for six, to be out leg before wicket, and Mahanama fended at a sharp rising delivery to Zimbabwe captain Alistair campbell at slip for six, after Sri Lanka had won the toss and decided to take first lease of a wicket expected to take spin later in the match.
The innings was rebuilt by Atapattu and Aravinda de Silva, who put on a record third wicket stand of 130. The Sri Lanka vice-captain, scorer off seven centuries and over 1000 runs in Tests during the 1997 calender year, continued his brilliant run with an impeccable 75. He was on course for another century when mistimed a drive off leg-spinner Adam Huckle and was caught by Andrew Whittall at cover, nearing tea.
De Silva struck nine fours and one six in his 154-minute innings which comprised plenty of nicely timed strokes which bisected the Zimbabwe fieldsmen who gave a pretty smart performance on the field.
Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga's stay at the wicket was rather brief _ 74 minutes. But in that time, he scored 27 with a six and two fours and helped Atapattu add 53 for the fourth wicket.
Atapattu completed his century, an unblemished knock in 288 minutes off 208 balls hitting 13 fours, and was still playing defiantly despite Zimbabwe taking the second new ball six overs before stumps.
Hashan Tillekeratne who joined him at the fall of Ranatunga's wicket at 226, was batting on 11. Zimbabwe gave 25-year-old right-hand batsman Murray Goodwin his first Test cap, while Sri Lanka opted for left-arm spinner Jayantha Silva, leaving out Dharmasena.
Day 2: Marvan Atapattu strokes maiden double century
Sri Lanka finish on top at the end of second day of Test against Zimbabwe
SA'ADI THAWFEEQ REPORTING FROM KANDY
Marvan Atapattu set up new batting records as he stroked his way to a maiden test double century, enabling Sri Lanka to finish on top at the end of the second day of the First Cricket Test against Zimbabwe at the Asgiriya Stadium, yesterday.
Atapattu playing in his 13th Test scored an elegant 223 in Sri Lanka's first innings total of 469 for 9 declared. By the close Zimbabwe were struggling at 46 for two both wickets being claimed by the two Sri Lankan spinners, Muthiah Muralitharan and Jayantha Silva, in their initial overs.
After opener Grant Flower played on to Muralitharan's sixth delivery to be bowled for four, Murray Goodwin lasted 17 balls for two runs on his Test debut, before going back to Silva's third delivery and being trapped lbw.
Gavin Rennie (23) and Andy Flower (8) saw Zimbabwe through without any further mishap, but face a daunting task in helping their side avoid the follow-on total of 270 on a pitch affording appreciable turn.
When Sri Lanka resumed at their overnight total of 265 for 4, Atapattu took total dominance over their bowlers, batting well into the afternoon to take the sting of their attack. He drove and pulled in copybook style accumulating his runs by way of 29 fours and one six. He was dismissed three minutes short of 10 hours at the crease, when he edged leg-spinner Paul Strang to Alistair Campbell at slip, six minutes before the tea break.
Atapattu brought up his double century in fine style pulling a short delivery from leg-spinner Adam Huckle over square for six. He had then batted 550 minutes and faced 408 balls, hitting 27 fours and a six. At 212 he passed the highest individual score made on this ground - 212 by Duncan Arnolda for Kandy CC v Kurunegala SC in 1995. In the first session of play, Atapattu had already surpassed the previous highest individual Test score at Asgiriya of 143 (not out) by Australia's David Hookes in 1983.
The only blemish he made during his 446-ball knock was at 217 when wicket-keeper Andy Flower failed to stump him off Paul Strang. Atapattu's double century was the fifth occasion a Sri Lankan had gone past the 200-run mark in a Test innings.
Top of the list is Sanath Jayasuriya's 340 vs India at R. Premadasa Stadium last year, followed by Aravinda de Silva's 267 against New Zealand at Wellington in 1990-91, 225 by Roshsan Mahanama against India at R. Premadasa Stadium last year, and the 210 (n.o.) by Brendon Kuruppu against New Zealand at the CCC grounds in 1986-87.
Atapattu fell 31 runs short of improving on his first-class career best score of 253 (not out) for SSC v Galle CC at SSC in 1995-96.
During Atapattu's marathon knock, he shared in three useful partnerships with Hashan Tillekeratne (44) - 95 for the fifth wicket and of 52 and 57 with Romesh Kaluwitharana (29) and Chaminda Vaas (26), respectively which enabled Sri Lanka go beyond the 400-run mark, for the first time on this ground.
Spinners Andrew Whittal and Paul Strang were Zimbabwe's best bowlers each taking three apiece.
day 3: Zimbabwe on the skids
Muralitheran (5/23) and de Silva 3 for 27 prove unplayable
Sa'adi Thawfeeq,reporting from Kandy
Sri Lanka took a stranglehold of the first cricket Test through their spinners when they skittled Zimbabwe out for 140 runs, and captured a further two wickets after enforcing the follow-on at the Asgiriya Stadium yesterday.
Zimbabwe finished the third day at 71 for 2 wickets, still trailing Sri Lanka by a massive 269 runs with two days remaining.
The tourists face a daunting task on a spinning pitch, if they are to prevent Sri Lanka from taking a 1-0 lead in the short two_Test series.
Zimbabwe began their second innings with an opening partnership of 68 between Gavin Rennie and Grant Flower, but both openers succumbed to spin before the close. Flower played on to part-time off-spinner Aravinda de Silva to be bowled leg stump for 38, and at the same score, Rennie pushing forward tentatively to Muralitharan was adjudged lbw for 24.
Test cap Murray Goodwin and 'nightwatchman' Andy Whittall survived the final two overs to be unbeaten on one and two respectively.
The day belonged to Sri Lanka's prime off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan who took his tenth five-wicket in an innings haul to send Zimbabwe crashing to 140 all out, 11 minutes after the tea break.
Play began 45 minutes late due to overnight rain leaving certain parts of the ground wet. Zimbabwe resuming on 46 for two were soon in trouble losing their most consistent run-getter Andy Flower in the second over for eight. Flower went back to a delivery from Chaminda Vaas and was palpably lbw.
Zimbabwe never recovered from that early loss and wickets fell at regular intervals to the spin of Muralitharan and his left-arm spin partner Jayantha Silva.
Only Rennie with a defiant knock of 53 in 281 minutes (two fours) and Paul Strang (35 in 103 minutes) got into double figures. They put together the most productive stand of the innings - 44 in 81 minutes before it was broken by Silva, who had Rennie driving uppishly to mid-on.
The bespectacled Rennie was fortunate on two occasions before he completed his second Test fifty. At 23 he was given the benefit of the doubt by the third umpire for a runout due to poor television replays, and at 34, he was put down by wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana off Pushpakumara.
Zimbabwe lost five wickets in the post-lunch session for 68 runs with Muralitharan taking three for 13 in two spells.
Muralitharan, who spun a web around the Zimbabwean batsmen finished with the excellent figures of 5 for 23 off 29 economical overs of which 18 were maidens.
Silva proved an ideal foil taking 3 for 27 off 19.4 overs. It was this combination that routed Zimbabwe to a 2-0 defeat the last time they were in Sri Lanka in 1996-97, taking 27 wickets between them.
Day 4: Zimbabwe offer resistance, but head toward defeat
Muralitharan (10 for 101) bowls Sri Lanka towards victory in First Test
Sa'adi Thawfeeq reporting from Kandy
ZIMBABWE put up stern resistance but were heading for defeat after off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan took his first match bag of ten wickets in a Test on the fourth day of the first cricket Test at the Asgiriya stadium yesterday.
Zimbabwe finished the day on 289 for 7 wickets, still trailing by 40 runs to avoid an innings defeat. Today is the final day of the Test.
Sri Lanka made 469 for nine declared and forced Zimbabwe to follow-on after dismissing them for 140 in the first innings.
Muralitharan who took 5 for 23 in the first innings struck vital blows in Zimbabwe's recovery in the second innings to finish the day with figures of 5 for 78 and a match bag of 10 for 101. He became the second Sri Lankan bowler to take ten wickets in a Test after Chaminda Vaas' 10 for 90 against New Zealand at Napier in 1994-95.
Resuming at 71 for 2, Zimbabwe lost only one wicket in each of the first two sessions to got to tea at 229 for 4.
They lost 'nightwatchman' Andy Whittall for 14 after 62 minutes of defiance and, Test debutant Murray Goodwin for a patient knock of 70 in 191 minutes with four fours. Both batsmen were bowled by Muralitharan.
However, the most destructive blows came in the final session, when Muralitharan, coming for a new spell, struck twice in his 35th over to remove the stubborn Andy Flower for 67 and Craig Wishart without scoring, within the space of two balls.
Flower batted resolutely for 243 minutes and hit only one four before edging a catch to Mahanama at slip. He was involved in two face-saving stands of 82 with Goodwin for the fourth wicket and 76 with skipper Alistair Campbell for the fifth wicket.
Wishart was bowled off his pads not offering a shot and Campbell fell to the second new ball being lbw to ``Vaas as he attempted a glance. Campbell batted 171 minutes for his 40 runs which comprised four fours.
Paul Strang (13) and Heath Streak (6) saw the rest of the day through - brought forward by bad light.
y 5: Murali spins Lanka to eight-wicket victory
SA'ADI THAWFEEQ reporting from Kandy
Off-spinner Muthaih Muralitharan returned the best match figures by a Sri Lankan bowler in Test cricket to spearhead his country to an eight-wicket win in the first Test against Zimbabwe concluded at the Asgiriya Stadium yesterday.
Muralitharan finished with 12 wickets for 117 runs as Zimbabwe were eventually dismissed in their second innings for 338, leaving Sri Lanka the formality of scoring 10 runs for victory.
However, the home side got off to a shock start losing the wickets of both Sanatah Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama without a run on the board, in Heath Streak's opening over, before Marvan Atapattu (6) and Aravinda de Silva (4) knocked the runs off to wrap up the Test, 50 minutes before lunch on the fifth and final day.
The win gave Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the short two-Test series. The second Test commences at the SSC grounds on Wednesday.
The win was Sri Lanka's first on this ground in seven Tests, and their tenth overall in 80 Tests. The victory also ended a barren run of 11 Tests without a win in 1997. Sri Lanka's last win was also against Zimbabwe by ten wickets at the SSC grounds in September 1996.
Zimbabwe resuming at 289 for seven, lost Streak early for 13 in the second over of the morning. The fast bowler tried to fend off a rising delivery from his vis-a-vis Ravindra Pushpakumara and was caught by wicket-keeper Roemsh Kaluwitharana, who juggled with the ball before holding it.
The Strang brothers, Paul and Bryan, ensured Sri Lanka would bat again by adding a useful 37 runs for the ninth wicket in 74 minutes before Muralitharan ended their liaison.
Paul was caught off bat and pad by substitute fielder Russel Arnold at silly point for 33, and two balls later, Muralitharan ended the innings by having tailender Adam Huckle leg-before wicket for his seventh wicket of the innings. Bryan Strang was undefeated on 15.
Muralitharan's final figures of 7 for 94 was his best in Test cricket improving on his 6 for 98 against Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in 1996-97.
With figures of 5 for 23 in the first innings, 'Man of the Match' Muralitharan's final tally of 12 for 117 improved on the previous best by a Sri Lankan of 10 for 90 by Chaminda Vaas against New Zealand at Napier in 1994-95. It was also the best figures at Asgiriya Stadium improving on Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis 11 for 119 in 1994-95.
Sri Lanka Manager Duleep Mendis described Muralitharan's performance ``as a devastating piece of bowling''.
``Muralitharan has never got the praise that he deserves. He has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons. This performance proves what a fine bowler he is,'' said Mendis.
The 25-year-old bowler whose career came under cloud after he was called for throwing in Australia two years ago, has now taken 147 wickets in 35 Tests. He could not have picked on a better venue than his birth place, Kandy, to return the best bowling figures for his country at the highest level.
Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga praised Zimbabwe for the manner in which they fought back in the second innings, after being bowled out for 140 and said, that they were a much improved side than on the last occasion they were here. He said he expected a much stiffer competition from them in the second Test.
Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell said lack of application shown by his batsmen in the first innings led to their downfall. He said their second innings batting performance showed that they ``have got a bit of form now to play spinners on turning wickets which should stand them in good stead for the next Test match.''
``Our wrist spinners bowled too many loose balls and didn't get the ball in the right area, but the Sri Lankan batsmen played the spinners well,'' said Campbell.
On Marvan Atapattu's double century, Campbell said: ``It was a really good innings. He showed a lot of patience and a lot of concentration. He showed how a Test innings should be played''.