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Weary South Africa floored by tried and tested formula

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins at Trent Bridge

15 August 1998

Sri Lanka (258) bt South Africa (201) by 57 runs

South Africa's Gary Kirsten in bowled out by Pramodya Wickramasinghe of Sri LankaTHE OLD formula worked admirably for Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge in the opening match of the Emirates Triangular Tournament. Wristy strokeplayers and bowlers who make the batsmen do the work combined to beat South Africa by 57 runs. England, who practise at Lord's today for tomorrow's game against the world champions, have been duly warned.

South Africa have won six of their last seven internationals against Sri Lanka and all but one of the five meetings between the two since last November, but nothing much has gone right for a weary touring team since England beat them on this ground in the fourth Test a little under three weeks ago. Like a rugged old boxer they came back bravely after being stunned and dusted up by Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana in the first round but in the later stages it was no contest.

South Africans by their nature never stop trying in any sporting contest but weary bodies and stale minds are obliging this team merely to go through the motions now. They have played 16 Test matches since last October and this was their 26th international in that time. They have the look of more than one England side towards the end of recent tours: short of puff and short of luck.

Oddly enough they were fancying their chances as they walked out yesterday, Hansie Cronje having won the toss and chosen to bowl first on a pitch with a greenish hue. In the event it was easy-paced and true and the lavish swing of the new white ball proved rather more of a problem than a boon to the South Africans. Sixteen wides swelled the eventual Sri Lankan total to 258 after one of those rattling starts which leave opponents breathless and perplexed.

Had Pat Symcox held on to a fierce drive to his feet at extra cover off Shaun Pollock's first ball of the match it might conceivably have been a different story, although Sri Lanka do not normally throttle back just because of an early setback. In this case Kaluwitharana made it clear that there would be no compromising by driving Steve Elworthy back over his head at once and a wrist cover-drive by Jayasuriya in the same over set a pattern which continued breathlessly for the better part of an hour.

South Africa actually conceded 11 extras in an over from Elworthy which cost 15 runs, including five leg byes, four byes, a wide and a no ball. Four overthrows, often a symptom of a side on the run, hastened Sri Lanka to 50 in only the sixth over but Jacques Kallis, taking over from a bruised Elworthy, restored some order with the help of Allan Donald.

Kallis surprised Kaluwitharana with the pace generated by his apparently languid action and his first ball was spliced high over cover from an attempted pull to leg, Cronje taking a fine catch on the run. Donald followed up by finding Jayasuriya's edge as he tried to fiddle to third man and when Aravinda de Silva cut to cover without getting on top of the bounce, Arjuna Ranatunga's vast experience - this was his 242nd international - was required.

Working the ball into the gaps, and with stylish assistance from Marvan Atapattu, Ranatunga made sure that the good start was not wasted. Atapattu, stretching to drive a ball well wide of his off stump, was given out stumped after lengthy replays and Cronje picked up two wickets on a pitch of no pace, but it took a blow to the knee and a run out to account for the Sri Lankan captain with four overs of the innings to go.

Ranatunga did not take the field but de Silva, playing his 239th international, knew the formula backwards and only when Symcox and Jonty Rhodes were adding a spirited 100 for the sixth wicket off 90 balls was the acting captain in any way troubled. By then it was already almost too late.

Pramodya Wickremasinghe had celebrated his 27th birthday with an exemplary spell of medium-fast bowling with the new ball which earned him three for 20, Gary Kirsten dragging a cover drive onto his stumps, Kallis driving to extra cover and the left-handed Mike Rindel to square-leg, where the substitute, Upil Chandana, took a fine catch.

Cronje made a big mistake in promoting Symcox above Rhodes. He played a sturdy innings but he has neither the timing nor the quicksilver running speed of his sixth-wicket partner and the moment that Rhodes, after another dashing innings, pulled to mid-wicket after making his 54 from only 49 balls was the one when Sri Lanka knew for certain they would win.

Between May and November last year they won 13 internationals in succession. Since last August they have now packed in 29 of these games, winning 14 and losing 11, with four abandoned. If that is a decline, it is only a relative one and England will need to be sharp to upset them at Lord's tomorrow.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 15 Aug1998 - 10:26