England v Sri Lanka: Adelaide awaits
Aroused as they will almost certainly have been by the events of another
melodramatic week in Australian cricket, the sporting public of Adelaide
should be in for a delectable feast of entertainment over the course of
watching the three Carlton and United Series matches to be played here over
the upcoming Australia Day long weekend. With four relatively recently
installed retractable lights having been added to its make-up and
heightening its already splendid ambience, the picturesque Adelaide Oval
should indeed be the setting for three clashes which will go a long way
toward settling the destiny of this rapidly fluctuating triangular
In what should prove an exciting pipe-opener, England and Sri Lanka meet in
the first of the trio of day-night games on Saturday. The Englishmen,
whose form in this series has represented almost the complete antithesis of
their efforts in the Ashes Tests of earlier in the summer, will be looking
to add a (despairingly elusive) convincing opening stand to the generally
impressive middle-order batting and strong pace bowling displays which have
preceded their arrival in the South Australian capital. Again, it will be
Graeme Hick - to date relishing a long overdue promotion to the coveted
number three spot - who will offer their main source of inspiration with
the bat, whilst Darren Gough and Alan Mullally once more shape as their key
bowlers as they seek to collect their fifth win from six attempts.
But it is likely that they will not have things quite as easy as they have
during some of the games played so far; and that they will face a far more
assured and hardened Sri Lankan side than the one which they have
demolished in their two earlier meetings in the tournament. Buoyed by
their first success of the competition (a stuttering three wicket win over
Australia in Hobart on Thursday), the World Champions will almost certainly
be bringing to this game a far more positive disposition than the
predominantly hesitant one which had stricken their play prior to
Thursday's triumph. Whilst there are some doubts over the fitness of their
masterful captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who controversially experienced pain in
his calf whilst compiling his marvellously defiant and educated unbeaten
45 against the Australians in Hobart, the possible - and certainly eagerly
anticipated - return from injury of star batsman Aravinda De Silva and
rapidly maturing left arm paceman Nuwan Zoysa can surely only serve to
raise their collective confidence.
Against the backdrop of the recriminations which are eerily beginning to
simmer in Australia over the series of controversies and injury woes
afflicting the home team, this game offers an excellent opportunity for
both of these sides to build upon encouraging last-start wins and to
quietly advance their goal of securing a place in the finals of this
tournament. Let us indeed hope that the cricket which is played between
them lives up to such promise and sets the scene for a mouth watering
weekend of matches.
England's openers make flying start
Appearing determined to finally record a big first wicket stand for their country in this tournament, England's openers have made a blazing beginning to the first of the triumvirate of Carlton and United Series matches to be played in Adelaide over this long Australia Day weekend. After being sent in to bat by Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, England has concluded its first 5 overs on a score of 0/33. Skipper Alec Stewart has reached 19 and Nick Knight 12.
Given the glorious skies in evidence in Adelaide today, the quality of the pitch, and the blindingly fast nture of the outfield, the early indications are that this will be a very high scoring game. Stewart and Knight have indeed set the tone for the day with a number of attractive strokes and some intelligent running between the wickets. The former's play was highlighted by two glorious on drives from successive balls off Pramodya Wickremasinghe in the fourth over. Knight, meanwhile, hit one magnificent cover drive off the first ball of the second over - also bowled by the tall right armer - and a delightful shot off his toes through square leg off Chaminda Vaas in the fifth over. The only vague encouragement for the Sri Lankans to date was offered by an involuntarily edged shot from Stewart which flew just wide of Tillekeratne at first slip in the second over.
In selection news, England has made one change to the team which defeated the Sri Lankans in Melbourne last Tuesday, with Neil Fairbrother replacing John Crawley. With the wily Ranatunga having been declared fit, Sri Lanka meanwhile has named a side unchanged from the one which beat Australia in Hobart on Thursday. Although despairingly close to full fitness, Aravinda De Silva and Nuwan Zoysa each temporarily remain on the injured list. One other interesting point to note is that Ross Emerson and Tony McQuillan have been chosen as the umpires for this match. It was when they presided together over a match betwwen Sri Lanka and West Indies in Brisbane on 5 January 1996 that Emerson created controversy by no-balling Sri Lankan off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing.
A raging England slowed by Stewart's loss
After making a whirlwind start to this match, the progress of England's batsmen has been slowed to some extent by the loss of the wicket of Alec Stewart. Following the departure of the captain for a sizzling 39 off 33 balls - smartly caught by Arjuna Ranatunga at short mid wicket off Chaminda Vaas from the first ball of the eleventh over - the score has moved to a still highly impressive 1/86 at the end of 15 overs. Nick Knight has reached 28 and Grame Hick is on 15.
Against some generally disappointing bowling (especially from Pramodya Wickremasinghe) on a pitch demanding impeccable line and length, Stewart was in commanding form today. After playing a false shot past first slip to open his scoring, he rarely failed to find the middle of the bat in a controlled display of strokeplay and was dominant in the early batting assault which saw the first 50 runs of the innings come from just 43 balls. After playing predominantly through the arc between mid off and mid on in the early overs, Stewart then began to turn his attention to blasting the ball square of the wicket - hitting a number of delightful shots through point and the covers. One imperious shot played through extra cover off Vaas in the seventh over was clearly the shot of the match to date.
Despite being overshadowed by his opening partner, Knight has also made his most convincing start to an innings in this series. For the most part, he has concentrated on stroking the ball into gaps in the off side and he has also missed very few opportunities to score from anything straying on to the line of his pads. The fortuitous beneficiary of an unsuccessful caught behind appeal in the fourteenth over (bowled by Mahela Jayawardene), Hick, too, looks still to be playing with the same degree of flair and confidence that has characterised his batting throughout recent matches. The highlight of his brief display so far was a magnificent lofted off drive to the boundary earlier in the same over from Jayawardene.
Whilst the decision from Ranatunga to bat second may still prove a shrewd one, his team has made a struggling start to this match. Consistent readjustments have been made to the field and the crowd also witnessed the rare sight of Jayawardene taking the ball inside the first ten overs as he relieved the expensive Wickremasinghe.
Controversy erupts in the Carlton & United Series
After weeks of heated discussions in Australia in which debate over the legitimacy of the bowling action of Sri Lankan off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has been rehashed all over again, drama and controversy has erupted at the Adelaide Oval in the scheduled eighteenth over of the England innings in its match against Sri Lanka here today.
Western Australian umpire Ross Emerson - a figure at the centre of controversy during Sri Lanka's tour of Australia in 1995/96 when he took the same action seven times in a match in Brisbane - astonishingly decided to revive the chucking debate when he called Muralitharan from square leg for throwing the third ball of his second over of the match.
Commentating on Australia's Channel Nine at the time at which Emerson made the decision, former England star Ian Botham labelled the umpire's actions as a disgrace, implying that it was totally inappropriate and amazing that the umpire should decide - out of the blue and in the middle of a tournament - to effectively thumb his nose at all of the actions the ICC has taken in recent years in analysing and clearing the off spinner's method of delivery.
After the Western Australian had made his call, Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, Emerson and the other umpire Tony McQuillan took part in a heated exchange for several minutes. Ranatunga led his team towards the boundary and called his team's management on to the ground, even appearing for a few minutes to be ready to concede the match. Match referee Peter van der Merwe was also called out on to the field as the England batsmen looked on in amazement. As arguments raged on the field for over ten minutes, a clearly shaken Muralitharan was consoled by his teammates, Sri Lankan coach Roy Dias and manager Ranjit Fernando.
The Sri Lankans did ultimately return to the field of play - with the score at 1/96 (with Nick Knight on 33 and Graeme Hick on 19) - but the wiry spinner was bemusingly forced to revert to bowling leg spin when play resumed.
Under Emerson's shroud of controversy, England's batsmen remain on top
In a match that will be forever tainted by the extraordinary actions of umpire Ross Emerson in calling Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing, England has progressed to a score of 3/173 at the completion of 35 overs in its match against Sri Lanka at the Adelaide Oval this afternoon. Taking advantage of some excellent batting conditions, the in-form Graeme Hick is again proving the star for England with a well-made 68. He has recently been joined at the wicket by Neil Fairbrother, who is on 10.
After playing his best innings of the series, opener Nick Knight lost his wicket in the twenty-seventh over when he was run out - ironically by a brilliantly thrown direct hit from Muralitharan at a deep mid off - for 45. Interestingly, although Knight was caught a long way short of his ground, umpire Emerson (standing alongside the bowler's stumps) elected not to make a decision on Murali's throw this occasion and referred it to the third umpire! Nasser Hussain (5) then followed shortly afterwards when a full-blooded sweep shot off Sanath Jayasuriya was spectacularly caught by Hashan Tillekeratne diving hard to his left at a short fine leg position.
However, the excellent performance in this innings from England's batsmen so far has taken a distant second place to the remarkable actions swirling on around them. Having dramatically called Sri Lankan off spinner Muralitharan for illegally bowling the third ball of the eighteenth over - and thereby stimulated a series of amazing scenes as play gave way for over ten minutes to an array of heated consultations, conversations and arguments - Emerson lifted the tension in Adelaide to boiling point with a decision that universally stunned everyone watching the match.
Although some calm was ultimately restored to the afternoon when Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga eventually elected to respond positively to the encouragement of match referee Peter van der Merwe to lead his team back on to the field of play, emotions continued to simmer as the match progressed. Ranatunga elected to challenge Emerson by switching Muralitharan to the River Torrens End of the ground and daring him to call him again - this time from the bowler's end. There followed a number of confrontations once more as Emerson strangely appeared to refuse to allow the off spinner to run on a path between him and the stumps. Whilst the bowler was unable to find his preferred line and length and bowled disappointingly - being clubbed twice by Hick over the mid wicket boundary (even over the Victor Richardson Gates with the second of the shots) - a noticeable sense of determination and resolve was evident among the entire Sri Lankan side following the Western Australian's decision.
As controversy reigns, England sets a massive target
At the end of an innings after which it remains impossible not to harbour a sense of disbelief, England has completed its 50 overs at the huge score of 3/302 in the eighth match of the Carlton & United Series today. Leading the way for England, Graeme Hick secured his second century in three games (finishing unbeaten on a brutal 126 off 118 balls) and Neil Fairbrother hit out brilliantly to remain unconquered on 78 from 71 deliveries. Their innings came after Alec Stewart had ignited the batting with a rapid 39 off 33 balls and Nick Knight had made a polished 45.
Notwithstanding how well England's batsmen made the most of a placid batting pitch and the Adelaide Oval's short square boundaries and lightning fast outfield today, however, it is clearly going to be the stunning decision by umpire Ross Emerson to no-ball Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing the third ball of the eighteenth over - and the emotional scenes which followed - which will continue to provide all the talking points from this afternoon's play.
Whilst the Sri Lankan side maintained its composure admirably, it was largely powerless to halt another great exhibition of strokeplay from Hick and Fairbrother. Benefitting from umpire Tony McQuillan's dubious rejection of a vociferous caught behind appeal from Mahela Jayawardene's bowling in the fourteenth over, the powerful right hander in particular was in commanding mood, dispatching strokes to all parts of the wicket. Once more, horizontal bat shots were the feature of his innings; three huge sixes over mid wicket off the unsurprisingly rattled Muralitharan and another off Pramodya Wickremasinghe proving the most memorable shots of his fine overall exhibition. Following Stewart's sensational early innings burst, Hick combined highly effectively with both Knight and Fairbrother - joining with the latter for a devastating partnership of 154 off just 21.2 overs - to maintain a scoring rate for his team which hovered consistently in excess of 5 runs per over throughout the innings.
Among a slightly second rate bowling line-up today, Sanath Jayasuriya (1/42 off 10 overs) was probably the most impressive but Muralitharan (who finished with 0/46 from 7 overs) is patently the man who will command all of the headlines. Indeed, regardless of what happens during the remainder of this match - and, given the high quality of the conditions for batting, Sri Lanka is far from out of the encounter - one thing remains clear: that for however distinguished the standard of the play proves, it is regrettably likely to become increasingly overshadowed by the polemics which will undoubtedly emerge from this day of drama.
Sri Lanka's top order sets off on their mammoth chase
Perhaps shaken by the bizarre events of earlier in the day, Sri Lanka's batsmen are battling to overcome a mediocre start to their pursuit of the mammoth tally of 303 for victory in their match against England at the Adelaide Oval. At the completion of 10 overs, they find themselves at 2/68; Sanath Jayasuriya dominating on 51 and Hashan Tillekeratne on 11.
With the Sri Lankans already needing to score at better than a rate of a run a ball to claim victory, their innings started in dreadful fashion when belligerent opener Romesh Kaluwitharana (0) was disastrously sacrificed in a terrible running mix-up in the second over. Kaluwitharana, who was run out without facing a ball in the innings, was dismissed after he looked to take a sharp single from a ball his partner had played just short and to the right of Adam Hollioake charging in from mid wicket. Although Hollioake risked embarrassment by electing to aim directly at the stumps rather than relay his return via the bowler, Alan Mullally, his throw connected with middle stump to find Kalu well short of his ground.
After failing to find the middle of his bat throughout his brief stay, number three Marvan Atapattu (3) was then dismissed when he outside edged a straight ball from speedster Mullally through to Neil Fairbrother at first slip. Undeterred by the sight of Alec Stewart unsuccessfully diving across in front of him, Fairbrother held his nerve superbly to clutch an excellent catch. In the light of his effort in leading his team to victory in Hobart with a stylish 82 on Thursday, Atapattu's scalp was a valuable one for an England side which can not seem to put a foot wrong at this stage of the tournament.
For as dominant as England's position appears, however, there still remains a distant glimmer hope for the Sri Lankan team and its vocal band of supporters in attendance at the ground this evening. For as long as the brilliant Jayasuriya stays at the wicket, it is foolhardy to ever write this team off completely. He looks to be in a typically attacking mood tonight, and struck two magnificent sixes to leg off successive balls from Darren Gough in the seventh over - and 3 successive boundaries from Mullally in the tenth to raise a stunning half century off just 34 balls - of the innings to signal that he intends making a real fight of this match. As if anyone really needed any further drama, it also seems that we may confront an intractable (or retractable!) problem later tonight, for one of the 4 light towers in place at the ground is not operational at this point in time as darkness slowly descends.
Jayasuriya falls as Sri Lanka fights on gamely
Although the side continues to maintain an excellent run rate (and has actually outscored England by 11 runs to this point of the match), Sri Lanka is still a long way short of claiming an unlikely win at the end of 20 overs in the clash with England at the Adelaide Oval tonight. Hampered by the loss of 3 vital wickets - those of Romesh Kaluwitharana (0), Marvan Attapattu (3) and Sanath Jayasuriya (51) - they are placed at 3/121. Mahela Jayawardene is on 40 and Hashan Tillekeratne 23.
The man who the Sri Lankans arguably most needed to stay at the crease for a long period tonight - the combative Jayasuriya - was removed by Darren Gough in the eleventh over when he only succeeded in gently lobbing a catch to Neil Fairbrother at mid wicket as he looked to turn a ball through square leg. Following a sensational 36-ball innings in which he gave hint for only the second time in this series of the attacking ethos for which he has become so well renowned over recent years, his dismissal represented a huge - possibly fatal - blow to his side.
Despite being extremely fortunate to keep their partnership in tact courtesy of a ghastly umpiring faux pas from the controversial Ross Emerson (who bewilderingly failed to refer what TV replays conclusively proved to be the run out of the latter to third umpire Steve Davis in the eighteenth over), Tillekeratne and Jayawardene are nevertheless combining well in their attempts to keep their team in a game it desperately needs to win. Tillekeratne has played steadily, utilising a number of wristy glides and glances as he has looked to settle in and play the anchoring role of the innings. Not altogether stylish and although he clearly does not possess quite the same array of strokes as his more celebrated countryman, Jayawardene has looked to take over where Jayasuriya left off and has scored at will. Without taking too many inappropriate risks, he has constantly been on the attack; with one late cut off Adam Hollioake from the last ball of the fifteenth over sure to remain indelibly etched in the memory as one of the best shots of an incredibly high scoring game.
On another front, power has still not been restored to an ailing light tower at the north western extremity of the Oval. This presents the increasingly worrying prospect that play may have to be halted early here.
England remains on top in a match which continues to tighten
Refusing to be contained by an attack which has bowled an increasingly disciplined line during recent overs, Sri Lanka's batsmen are continuing to chip away determinedly at England's imposing total of 3/302 in this Carlton & United Series match at the Adelaide Oval tonight. With a maximum of 20 overs left to be bowled, they require a further 133 runs to win with 6 wickets in hand. Unbeaten in their score of 4/170 are Mahela Jayawardene (65) and Arjuna Ranatunga (16).
Although the world champions' performance has been checked by the loss of wickets at regular intervals - most recently that of Hashan Tillekeratne (28) who, deceived by a flighted ball from spinner Robert Croft, looked back in horror as he bottom edged a ball into his left pad before it rolled swiftly back on to his leg stump - this has been a determined effort to date. Jayawardene, in particular, has been a revelation in this innings, exhibiting some delightful timing and placement in the course of making his second ever half century at one day international level. With the look of a man even more determined to frustrate his detractors than normal, the crafty Ranatunga is also offering highly stubborn resistance.
Notwithstanding the notion that they are still scoring at a more rapid rate than their opponents at an equivalent stage of their innings, the Sri Lankans still face the arduous task of needing to score their runs at a rate of more than one a ball to win. With wickets falling steadily, the task still looks beyond them at this stage; but in a match in which the unexpected has occurred regularly, simply anything may happen.
A stirring finish in store as Jayawardene and Ranatunga cause headaches for Stewart
In a match rapidly heading toward a pulsating finish, Sri Lanka's batsmen are displaying a marvellous sense of resolve and of occasion as they continue to impressively set about accumulating the massive 303 run tally which they require for what would be a highly stirring triumph. Confronted by an England attack which is battling for inspiration - and desperately struggling to claim a wicket - they have reached the score of 4/221 at the end of 38 overs with Mahela Jayawardene still there on 90 (off just 85 balls) and Arjuna Ranatunga staying steadfastly with him on 40.
Guided by the young right hander Jayawardene - who has already surpassed his previous highest score of 74 at one day international level in the course of this innings - the world champions have forced English skipper Alec Stewart to bring Darren Gough back into his attack early in a seemingly anxious effort to close out their chase. After blazing to his half century off only 43 balls, Jayawardene has tightened his game and, under the watchful instuction of Ranatunga at the other end, has elected to play without risk and to steadily accumulate his runs, predominantly scoring in singles. His driving to long off has been the major feature of his innings, but he has also spiced his exhibition with some beautiful shots to the boundaries behind the wicket.
Building on his courageous pair of innings in his team's previous 2 matches in the competition, Ranatunga is also batting extremely effectively. Appearing to take considerable pleasure from his subtle ability to conjure delays in play and to niggle and frustrate opponents (foremost among them a manifestly disspirited Adam Hollioake) and umpires alike, the veteran is right in his element tonight. His penchant for playing through third man has been in constant evidence here and he has also stroked a number of glorious straight drives.
On a ground which is spectrally shrouded in more darkness than is customarily the case given that a light tower at the Oval remains inactive tonight, this is proving to be an amazing match in far more ways than one. It would be certainly be invoking a high sense of the ironic if either Jayawardene - the fortunate beneficiary of a poor run out decision by umpire Emerson earlier in the innings - or the indefatigable Ranatunga were to steer their team to victory.
In the face of controversy comes the performance of a World Champion
Inspired by a scintillating maiden one day international century from right handed man of the match Mahela Jayawardene and fired by high drama earlier in the day, Sri Lanka has scored a stunning and an almost inconceivable victory over England by 1 wicket and with 2 balls to spare in the eighth match of the Carlton & United Series at the Adelaide Oval tonight. Notwithstanding the incredible success that this team has enjoyed over recent years, this was probably one of Sri Lanka's greatest ever victories and undoubtedly one of its most stirring of all time. Before an understandably jubilant band of supporters, the world's champion one day team has indeed defied tension and a day of unprecedented incident to continue its spirited revival in this competition.
In a match that was turned on its head and that will forever be scarred by Western Australian umpire Ross Emerson's shock decision from square leg to no-ball Sri Lankan off spinner for throwing the third ball of the eighteenth over of the England innings, the victory was essentially a tribute both to the never-say-die attitude of this team and to its brilliant overall batting skills.
Although its pursuit of the massive target of 303 for victory appeared to be faltering on several occasions - particularly when captain Arjuna Ranatunga spooned a Darren Gough slower ball to mid wicket in the 39th over; Jayawardene was trapped in front by a Vince Wells yorker in the 46th; and even when Roshan Mahanama suicidally and inexplicably ran himself out with just 8 balls to come after scoring two brilliant boundaries to fine leg off Adam Hollioake earlier in the over - this was a brilliantly achieved win; indeed, it was the highest successful run chase of all time at the Adelaide Oval in this form of the game.
Earlier in the day, England's batsmen were in savage mood as they carved out their imposing tally of 3/302. Again it was Graeme Hick who was the star (with a brutal unbeaten 126 off 118 balls) but he received great support from Neil Fairbrother (who made a controlled 78 not out from 71 deliveries). Whilst their efforts were regrettably overshadowed by the Emerson-inspired controversy - and the 14 minute delay in play which followed his decision as Ranatunga took his team to the perimeter of the field, sought the assistance of team management and heatedly debated the affair with Emerson, his co-umpire Tony McQuillan and match referee Peter van der Merwe - Hick and Fairbrother were in particularly emphatic form today. Taking full advantage of some ideal batting conditions, the duo played shots all around the wicket as they continued the impetus established by their captain (who made 39 off 33 balls) and fellow opener Nick Knight (who compiled a bright 45) at the outset of the innings.
This was a match of astonishing controversy and will surely afford a place in history as one of the most emotional and dramatic one day international games to ever be played in Australia. Consistently contentious umpiring decisions, a failing floodlight, brilliant batting (including two outrageously scored individual centuries), physical clashes between Mahanama, Gough and Stewart, and a spectacular conclusion all enjoined to make for over 7 hours of unforgettable viewing.
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