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Match Report

By Rick Eyre for CricInfo/ninemsn
3 February 1999


England were in trouble from the moment that stand-in captain Adam Hollioake couldn't decide what to do when he won the toss. His eventual decision to bowl first backfired as Sri Lanka's spinners dominated to give their side an eleven run victory in Wednesday night's dead rubber in the Carlton & United One-Day Series at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Play began 105 minutes late at 4.15pm after a morning downpour saturated the outfield, the match reduced to 44 overs a side. Alec Stewart rested for the match, Hollioake A getting the chance to captain while Hollioake B finally made it into the starting eleven. John Crawley kept wicket, while Ashley Giles was the sole spinner in the lineup - a fatal selection decision in hindsight. For Sri Lanka, Aravinda de Silva played his second match of the series, while for Sanath Jayasuriya (broken arm) and Mutiah Muralitharan (groin) the tour was already over.

Avishka Gunawardene got off to a shaky start when an apparent lbw to Darren Gough was not given on the second ball of the innings. He settled in with fellow opener Romesh Kaluwitharana for an opening stand of 71 in 16.4 overs before being easily stumped off the bowling of Giles after scoring 24. Pinch-hitter Chaminda Vaas was worth 14 runs before losing his wicket on a needless second run.

Kalu played well for his half-century but holed out to Darren Gough at mid- off from the bowling of Alleyne after making 54. Arjuna Ranatunga came to the crease, hooted by parts of the small crowd. It must be said that the reception he has had since the Adelaide debacle is nothing compared to what Sir Richard Hadlee had to endure with Australian crowds throughout the 1980's. Arjuna didn't stay around long enough to provide much entertainment - in fact he provided no entertainment at all, getting a thick edge to Nasser Hussain off Gough's bowling from the fourth ball he faced. Out for a duck, Ranatunga has scored 25 runs in his last four innings of the series.

Mark Alleyne demonstrated that the Sunday League has produced some benefits for English cricket, his seemingly friendly medium pacers removing Jayawardene and Atapattu. It should be said, however, that Jayawardene and Atapattu, neither of whom have experienced the delights of Sunday League cricket, had themselves to blame. Vince Wells removed Upul Chandana for a duck and Sri Lanka were 134 for 7.

Aravinda de Silva (who does have Sunday League experience) was joined by number nine batsman Hashan Tillakaratne. Why he was batting at nine is anyone's guess. His 13 not out from 35 balls in slow conditions acted as counterpoint while de Silva kept the runs ticking over. Sri Lanka's 44 over innings ended when Aravinda pulled Wells to mid wicket only to be caught by a gentleman in the members stand, his six bringing up his personal 52 not out from 52 balls and giving Sri Lanka 181 for 7 - a quite reasonable total in the situation.

Ranatunga, whose captaincy has veered between the uninspired and the downright cranky in this series, pulled a surprise when he brought off- spinner de Silva on to share the new ball with Chaminda Vaas, who was discarded after four overs on a pitch taking lots of turn and uneven bounce.

England were kept to 52 runs without loss in their fifteen overs (the field restrictions coming off after 13) before Wells went for a dance down the pitch to Samaraweera, missed and was well bowled. Two balls and no more runs later, the danger man Graeme Hick was gone, bowled by an offie that turned a mile to crash into middle stump.

The run rate was climbing when Nasser Hussain was stumped from a Tillakaratne wide in the 25th over. Hussain's 9 coming from 24 deliveries. Wicketkeeper Crawley joined opener Knight and moved the runs along before Crawley fell to a diving Ranatunga catch, the score 118 for 4 after 33 overs. Nick Knight's innings of 58 ended when he played all over the top of a Chandana leggie that kept low.

England's batsmen were never able to break away as Ranatunga used five spinners (de Silva, Samaraweera, Chandana, Tillakaratne and Jayawardene) in rotation. When Hollioake A's captains knock of 13 ended in a stumping, England still needed 20 to win from 8 deliveries. Chaminda Vaas kept the 44th and last over of the match under Sri Lanka's control, and England ended their evening on 170 for 9.

Samaraweera and Chandana took three wickets each, while Wickremasinghe didn't even get a bowl. Though a finals berth is well beyond them now, Sri Lanka showed that they can win matches on a spinners track without the presence of one M.Muralitharan. This was certainly one of Ranatunga's better games as captain, however in all honesty, it was a lacklustre game whose outcome gives no clues to either side's World Cup prospects. At least it provides some consolation for Sri Lanka whose Australian tour has been miserable in more ways than one.

Tilak Samaraweera was man of the match, although Aravinda de Silva would have been a worthy winner also. Australia play England at the SCG on Friday night, the match already a sellout. Sri Lanka play their series finale against Australia at the MCG on Sunday.

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