Stewart's willow wielders are biting the Oval dust

Elmo Rodrigopulle

1 September 1998

At the time of writing Alex Stewart's cock-a-hoop Englishmen who were fortunate to pip the South Africans in a Test series 2-1 are gravelling and biting the Foster's Oval dust in London.

Unable to stomach this humiliation and the menace of Muralitheran the English coach David Lloyd has said that the way he bowls and with the action he has got he will always be a handful and is on record of having said that he would not be drawn further on his action saying he would make his view's known to the authorities.

We would like to refresh Lloyd's memory by saying that the Aussies too unable to counter Muralitheran who is the best spinner in the world tried to unsettle him by 'calling him'.

But the ICC cleared him unanimously and who does Lloyd think he is to raise the garbage that the Aussies so unashamedly dug up so unsuccessfully.

Play up, play up and play the game Lloyd and admit that your batsmen are clueless against this little off spinning sensation.

The Sri Lankan cricketers who could be termed the pupils, gave their masters a lesson on how Test cricket should be played by continuing to heap humiliation on the Brits at the end of the fourth day of the one-off Test at the London Oval.

At the time of writing England on 54 for two still need 92 more runs to make Sri Lanka bat again. The prediction is that it will be a draw. But the redoubtable Lankans with their positive approach could make a mockery of predictions as they have it in them to make the impossible, possible.

And the man who can make the Lankan dream a possibility is that off spinning sensation Muttiah Muralitheran with his venomous spinning and stinging off spinners.

The England batsmen are all groping and grovelling against Muralitheran, unable to read him in the air and off the wicket and up against him the England batsmen are only playing blind man's bluff.

The millions of Sri Lanka cricket fans here and around the globe must be hoping for a Sri Lanka victory so as to prove to the lords at Lord's that although they gave the game to the world the Lankans are showing them how to play and keep the game alive and kicking.

After England who were put into bat were lucky to make 445 and that too in a crawl, thanks to Crawley, Hick, Ramprakash and Fraser who was involved in a last wicket stand of 89 the Lankans in their turn who had the mortification of losing the consistent Mavan Atapattu to an atrocious LBW decision gave the Englishmen a lesson in how Test cricket should be played. The batsmanship was of a high order that had everyone watching especially the Brits, mesmerised and wondering why their batsmen cannot produce similar exhibitions that can bring crowds rushing to the grounds.

Today Test cricket has become a big bore and a yawn. Spectators do not care much about watching Test cricket. But the Lankans who have been deprived of Test cricket, proved and underlined that they have it in them to revolutionise the game and bring back crowds flocking as the West Indians did a few years ago with their dazzling and daring batsmanship that had not only art but also style and finesse written all over.

'Black superman' Sanath Jayasuriya, 'master blaster' Aravinda de Silva now turned 'Master craftsman' and 'Captain Cool', the enigmatic Arjuna Ranatunga gave the Saturday Oval crowd and the England bowlers and fielders not only a lesson but an exhibition that would have been etched in the memory of the thousands on the ground and the millions watching the world over. These three batting marvels smashed 367 runs in the day and that too against three of the best exponents of seam and swing bowling in the world Darren Gough, Angus Fraser and Dominic Cork and the helpless leg spinner Ian Salisbury who wouldn't have known what hit him.

Jayasuriya showed the hallmark of a great batsman by turning up trumps at the right moment. His cutting, driving and pulling was first rate. Aravinda de Silva proved that he and Sachin Tendulkar are the best batsmen in world cricket today. His innings was a mature one while Ranatunga proved that there is a lot more cricket and batting left in him.

Muralitheran proved that he is better than the best known and his was a high class performance and today whatever the wicket and whoever the batsman Muralitheran is king.

Test debutant Suresh Perera showed that he is fine promising allround material. Continuity is what he needs to join the greats and we hope that will be afforded to him.

When the English media took 'Captain Cool' Ranatunga to task for winning the toss and putting England into bat they did not reckon with his shrewd and clever cricketing brain.

Not for nothing is he known today as one of the best captains of cricket. When he won the toss he realised that if he batted, the freshness of the wicket and the conditions were going to be of immense help to Gough, Fraser and Cork who are experts at seam and swing bowling and who had their tails up having cropped the Proteas.

Had Sri Lanka batted the chances were that they would have lost three to four wickets before lunch and their first innings total would have been a small one. England would then have had the best of a batting wicket and piled up a big first innings score and the Sri Lankans would have been struggling to stave off an innings defeat.

One has to have been a captain to realise these responsibilities. When Ranatunga had England at 81 for 3 and 356 for 9, his gamble seemed to have paid off until that last wicket stand of 89.

By piling up their highest ever Test score in England of 591 he has proved his detractors and the English media wrong. The English media will not be faulted even if at this late stage they withdrew their remarks about his decision and gave him the credit.

Source: The Daily News

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Date-stamped : 01 Sep1998 - 18:27