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Rain target too much for Sri Lanka

Alex Balfour and Zahid Newaz
30 October 1998

South Africa are the first team into Sunday's Wills International Cup final following a 92-run victory over Sri Lanka in a rain-reduced match where the Duckworth-Lewis formula came into play. South Africa made 240/7 from their allotted 39 overs, Sri Lanka were all out for 132 chasing 224 to win in 34 overs.

Alex Balfour reports from Bangabandhu Stadium, Dhaka

With so many matches crammed into so few days it was inevitable that at least one would suffer from rain interruptions, and that Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis would have some say in determining the outcome. So it was yesterday, as the match was first reduced to 39 overs a side and then the Sri Lankan innings was curtailed for a further five overs after the break. The conditions, and the ICC's insistence on playing the game through despite the downpour throughout the Sri Lankan reply, had the biggest say in determining the outcome of the game. But, to borrow a football cliche, rain was not the only winner, as Jacques Kallis treated the crowd to a magnificent and highly physical century, and Sanath Jayasuriya played the shot of the tournament, an extraordinary late cut off the centurian's bowling.

Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan captain, was generous in apportioning blame as much to his side's failure to make runs and bowl out South Africa as to the slippery wicket. The crowd too showed remarkable tolerance, waiting without a murmur of complaint through five hours of delay at the start of the game and an hour during the middle. The massive roar that Symcox received when he came to the crease was clear evidence, if any more were needed, that the crowd knew the players well too, and were simply there to enjoy every minute, even if Symcox looked as mobile as the giant Pepsi Drinks mobile that was stuck firmly in the pitch side mud.

Ranatunga, winning the toss, sent South Africa into bat, explaining later that Sri Lanka have never won a game when not chasing. Hansie Cronje took up the challenge manfully, bringing in first Boje then Boucher at numbers three and four respectively. Boje had some success against left handers Vaas and Zoysa, but as soon as Arjuna brought on Dharmasena to bowl his fastish off breaks he looked in trouble, and was soon on his way back to the pavilion, caught Aravinda at mid off. Boucher was undone quicker, taken brilliantly by at slip by Mahanama off Zoysa.

With a new partner in the form of Cronje, Kallis took the initiative. Muralitharan was the hapless victim as Kallis belted sixes in successive overs over mid wicket, hitting intelligently with the spin. The fact that Kallis proceeded to take 35 runs of 26 Murali deliveries is ample of evidence of the quality of the batting that followed. He reached his half century in the twenty fifth over, first delicately cutting Jayasuriya down to third man for four, and then comprehensively hoisting him over mid wicket for six to reach the landmark. Two further sixes, off Chandana and Muralitharan respectively, some clever playing of spin, and a perfectly executed reverse sweep later, Kallis brought up his century. His was the backbone of the South African score of 240.

The Sri Lankan reply was all over in a flash. The pressure the Duckworth Lewis targets imposed as the rain fell insisted the Sri Lankans play their shots, and all but two was out caught doing exactly that. The ball came on too quickly for their liking off the wet track and South Africa were very sharp in the field, with Rhodes, who dismissed Vaas at point off Cronje with a wonderful catch diving forward two handed, in unstoppable form. A few wonderful hits from Jaya, Vaas, who came in at three, and Kalu aside Sri Lanka never looked like making up the difference.

More from Zahid Newaz

The drums bang as the crowd waits

Arjuna Rantunga, the captain of world champions Sri Lanka, had expected a tough match in the first semi-final of Wills International Cup Friday. His rival South African skipper Hansie Cronje had said the match will be very competitive. And the sports-loving crowd once again overflowed the 35,000- capacity Bangabandhu National Stadium long before the start of the match at 2 pm.

But the drama staged on the stadium greens before the match was no less than the clash between willow and leather. As the sky was cloudy till 1:30 pm and the ground wet or muddy due to drizzling, the two umpires in charge of the match deferred the day's proceedings after inspecting the field.

Umpires Steve Bucknor and Srinivas Venkatraghavan twice inspected the ground and delay the start until 5:10 pm. In the meantime, officials of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the organising body of the Wills Cup, and host Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) engaged their highest effort to make the field playable. State Minister for Youth and Sports Obaidul Quader, BCB president Saber Hossain Chowdhury and event manager Asif Iqbal were seen coordinating the work with soppers and covers to dry up the field.

The two rival teams also started warm-up exercises on two ends of the big bowl. As everything was set and the umpires walked down towards the pitch to begin the much expected match, drizzling started again casting a shadow over the fate of the match. However, thanks to nature, the minor rainfall remained minor: a great relief for all players, organisers, the host, and finally, the spectators.

When Sri Lankan pacer Chaminda Vaas started his run up to bowl the first ball of the match under the dazzling 24 lakh lux floodlight, there was no way to call the match a day-night one, rather a night-match. The clock already showed 5:22 pm, only a few minutes before sunset.

The match started with about three and a half hour's delay. But for thousands of spectators crowding the galleries it was many hours since they started to throng the stadium from morning and waited in long queues. The crowd, as recognised by all the cricketing heroes from Sunil Gavaskar to Brian Lara, again proved they were real fans of cricket.

All the time, despite the long delay to start the match, they were shouting, beating drums, flying flags of Sri Lanka or South Africa and making waves as they showed the cheering mood during the play.

Seven-year-old Kingshuk expressed the sentiment of all spectators who gathered at the Bangabandhu stadium from morning.

``It's a great relief the match has started. If it had not, we would see tie- breaker (Bowls-off). And if tie-breaker had not also, we could say we had come to watch Jayasuriya and watched him,'' said the enthusiastic, young friend of real cricket.

Source: CricInfo365
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