2nd Match: New Zealand v Sri Lanka at Sharjah, 9 Apr 2002
Samanth Subramanian

Sri Lanka innings: 15 overs, 30 overs,
Pre-game: Toss & Teams,
New Zealand innings: 15 overs, 30 overs, 50 overs,

Marvan Atapattu has often played the sheet anchor role in a Sri Lankan innings, and his performance today echoed those innings.

Along with Mahela Jayawardene, Atapattu added 62 runs for the third wicket between the 15th and 30th over. Both batsmen recognised that the situation just called for calm rotation of the stroke, and they played accordingly.

Atapattu had one scare in the 21st over when, flashing hard at the ball, he cut it just short of Stephen Fleming at point. The New Zealand skipper could not take the difficult chance, and to make matters worse, he injured himself in the process, having to go off the field for treatment.

Barring that blip, Atapattu's was a sedately paced innings. He reached his 50 off 79 balls in the 26th over and was unbeaten on 55 at the 30-over mark.

Sri Lanka, at that stage, were 119 for two, with Jayawardene also showing ominous signs of settling down. He was unbeaten on 35.

Chasing 219 for victory, Sri Lanka did not really need any fireworks from Sanath Jayasuriya, although they would undoubtedly have gone down well with the crowd.

The Sri Lankan skipper fell in the third over, trying to cut a Daryl Tuffey delivery that bounced more than he expected. Stephen Fleming took the catch at gully to dismiss his dangerous counterpart.

Three balls later, Tuffey induced an edge from Marvan Atapattu, but Chris Nevin behind the stumps reacted fractionally late to put down a regulation wicket-keeper catch.

Those, however, were the last bright moments that New Zealand experienced for some time to come. Atapattu and Kumara Sangakkara settled down to play eminently sensible cricket, rotating the strike well and unhesitant to dispatch erratic deliveries to the fence.

Jacob Oram, New Zealand's late-order hero with the bat, replaced James Franklin in the 10th over, but that only helped Atapattu to blossom further. The stylish Sri Lankan helped himself to more boundaries and runs, keeping New Zealand desparately looking for the crucial wicket.

They got it in the 15th over. Sangakkara (23, 41b, 4x4), having just hit a boundary off Ian Butler, tried to pull a short ball on leg-stump. The timing, however, was off, and Tuffey took a simple catch at square leg.

At the 15-over mark, Sri Lanka were 57/2, with Atapattu on 31 and Mahela Jayawardene on one. The start may have been rather sedate by Sri Lankan standards, but just what was needed for the situation.

The overs between 30 and 40 tumbled out in a hurry from Sri Lanka's bowling, the spinners delivering the ball and striding back quickly to their mark ready for the next one. The batsmen found themselves unable to force the pace of the innings; 34 runs and one wicket came off those 10 overs.

The wicket was that of Matthew Sinclair (28, 55b). Coming back to effect a break-through after 39 overs, Muttiah Muralitharan delivered one with just three balls. Sinclair, somewhat illogically, tried to reverse-sweep Murali but only succeeded in top-edging to Kumara Sangakkara at short third man. The wicket ended a partnership of 56 runs, the best of the innings.

In the 42nd over, Murali struck yet again. This time it was Chris Harris (33, 64b, 1x4)who was caught off the sweep, Arnold holding the edge well at slip.

Jacob Oram, a well-built youngster, showed flashes of belligerence in smashing three boundaries off Russell Arnold. Promptly enough, Arnold was taken off, replaced by Buddika Fernando, who was having his first bowl of the innings.

Oram also hit the first six of the innings, slamming a Fernando no-ball over long on. Umpire Russell Tiffin signalled four, but when Oram pointed out that the ball had sailed over the ropes, the signal was changed to six.

But after just two deliveries, Fernando struck. Coming around the wicket, the bowler pushed it closer to the body of James Franklin. Franklin's attempted square-cut thus went straight to Jayasuriya's hands at point.

New Zealand scrambled past the 200-run mark in the 49th over. Oram, however, went berserk in the final over, slamming two fours and then pulling Vaas for six. The Kiwi number eight finished with an unbeaten 46 off 33 balls (5x4, 2x6), helping New Zealand along to 218 for eight. It was the result of a good lower-order fightback, but, at present moment, it looks hardly enough to test a powerful Sri Lankan batting lineup.

For the fielding side, the undisputed star was one who has enjoyed that role for some time now - Muttiah Muralitharan, whose figures of 10-3-9-5 were, to put it mildly, fantastic.

Sri Lanka's forte in the one-day game has been their ability to keep things quiet with spin in the middle overs. That skill came to the fore again today, with star off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan leading the pack.

Leg-spinner Upul Chandana and Murali started to operate in tandem after the drinks break, and immediately the New Zealand batsmen started to look suspect, pushing and prodding indecisively.

Murali thrives precisely on such mindsets, and he had Stephen Fleming (34, 46b, 4x4) out off the second ball of his second over. Ripping his wrist over the ball to extract his customary prodigious turn, Murali completely foxed Fleming. The southpaw could not withdraw his bat in time, and he seemed to almost guide the ball into the hands of Russell Arnold at slip. That dismissal ended a partnership of 55 between Fleming and Nevin.

In his next over, Murali induced a mistimed pull from Scott Styris, the ball turning enough to balloon into the air and then down the throat of Chaminda Vaas on the mid-wicket fence. New Zealand were 92 for four, struggling to keep afloat.

Chris Nevin, who had played the seamers with calm elan, had appeared in obvious discomfort against Murali, but he fell in an unfortunate manner. An appeal for a bat-pad catch was referred to the third umpire; the television replay showed that the catch was cleanly taken, but that the ball had missed the bat. The third umpire, however, was required to rule only upon the legality of the catch, so Nevin had to trudge back to the pavilion.

More drama was in store. In the 26th over, the Sri Lankans appealed for a caught decision against Matthew Sinclair, and umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan gave it out. But Sinclair stood his ground, indicating that the ball had hit his arm and not his bat. Whereupon Venkataraghavan called over the Sri Lankan skipper and reversed his decision - a phenomenon as common as hen's teeth in cricket. Sanath Jayasuriya, to give credit where it is due, took the reversal sportingly.

Murali was taken off after bowling out slightly more than half his spell, having spectacular figures of 6-2-6-3. Jayasuriya then brought himself on to bowl his brand of fast left-arm orthodox spin.

At the end of 30 overs, New Zealand were in deep waters on 121 for five. Chris Harris was unbeaten on 15, while Sinclair was on 10.

Batting first on a good one-day pitch, New Zealand needed a good total for a reasonable shot at victory against Sri Lanka. But Nathan Astle, who can tear into any attack on his day, departed very early, setting his side back within seven balls.

The first delivery of Nuwan Zoysa's over, and the seventh of the match, seamed away just enough to catch the edge of Astle's bat as he fished outside off-stump. Sri Lanka had gotten rid of him for just one, a big boost for the fielding side.

Craig McMillan was almost tempted into a similar shot just two balls later, but the delivery beat the bat by the proverbial coat of varnish.

Chris Nevin, the other opener, brushed off Astle's loss and proceeded to play with panache. Chaminda Vaas took the brunt of Nevin's attack as the Kiwi wicket-keeper drove the left-arm seamer through the covers, slashed him past point, and then rifled the ball to the backward point ropes.

Zoysa was much more impressive than his more experienced partner. McMillan pulled him to the fence for four, but the very next ball saw Zoysa strike back. Digging it in just a tad shorter, Zoyza hurried McMillan into a second pull-stroke, only to be caught by Vaas at long leg.

Stephen Fleming started shakily, surviving two appeals for leg-before-wicket off Zoysa. But he soon grew in confidence, cutting the same bowler to the point fence for his first boundary.

Russell Arnold was brought in as first-change, sending down tame off-spin in place of Vaas' somewhat erratic seamers. At the other end, though, Zoysa seemed to be tiring after six overs. His seventh saw both Nevin and Fleming take boundaries off him.

After 15 overs, New Zealand were 83 for two. Nevin was on 38 off 39 balls (5x4), while Fleming had almost caught up with 32 off 40 balls.

New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming won the toss and elected to bat first in the second match of the Sharjah Cup.

Sri Lanka, coming off a fine performance against Pakistan just the previous day, must be named as favourites here. They have an enviable record at the venue in recent years, whereas New Zealand have lost 17 of the 25 matches they have played here.

But past records count for little once the teams take the field. Sri Lanka, unwilling to change a winning combination, take the field with the same side.

New Zealand are playing their first match of the tournament, and they will be looking to get their campaign for the Sharjah Cup started with a win. They may struggle with the weather though; Sharjah today is, as almost always, warm and humid.

For Sri Lanka, skipper Sanath Jayasuriya showed himself to be in fine form with the bat against Pakistan. But Nathan Astle has just come off blitzkreig batting performances against England in a Test series, and if both of them click today, this could be a one-dayer that the spectators will long remember.


New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Chris Nevin (wicket-keeper), Craig McMillan, Chris Harris, Matthew Sinclair, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, James Franklin, Ian Butler, Daryl Tuffey

Sri Lanka: Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Kumara Sangakkara, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Russell Arnold, Romesh Kaluwitharana (wicket-keeper), Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Nuwan Zoysa, Muttiah Muralitharan, Buddika Fernando

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Date-stamped : 09 Apr2002 - 22:57