Sri Lanka met a resurgent India in the final of the triangular ODI
series for the Coca-Cola Cup at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on
Sunday. India were on a roll after clinching a place in the final
with three consecutive victories, which included back to back wins against
Sri Lanka. which in turn gave them a lot of confidence going into the final.
Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch
that was full of runs. Posting a huge total was clearly the idea and
the Sri Lankan players went about their task with such ease that the
Indian bowling looked completely helpless with the exception of
Harbhajan Singh (10-0-29-2). Sri Lanka were 204/3 in 35 overs after
they lost their skipper Jayasuriya for a well-made 99.
There was still a lot of work to be done to post a big total and in walked
the in form Russel Arnold to join Mahela Jayawardene. Arnold has
been a revelation to Sri Lankan cricket, always producing the goods
when it mattered most, be it with the bat or the ball. Not any
more is he the unsung hero; Arnold is our Top Performer of the final.
Arnold and Jayawardene tried to steady the Sri Lankan innings after
the fall of Jayasuriya and took the score to 218 in the 40th over. In
a moment of sheer madness, Jayawardene tried to reverse sweep
Harbhajan Singh and was adjudged lbw. It could have opened the
floodgates and a collapse of the innings could not have been ruled
out. Arnold and Romesh Kaluwitharana first ensured safety and then
glory with some attractive batting. Arnold was quite severe on the
bowling, striking half a dozen boundaries. A deft late cut off the
bowling of Shewag signaled that he was in good touch. In the 47th
over bowled by Nehra, Arnold stepped on the gas with two consecutive
powerfully struck boundaries through mid-wicket. In the following
over from Zaheer Khan, two more boundaries were struck. Arnold was in
a hurry and reached his half-century off just 42 balls. His
quicksilver innings of 52 came off just 45 balls.
When India started the run chase of 296 for a win, Arnold struck early. The potential
match winner Virender Shewag was brilliantly run out by Arnold with a
direct hit. Next to go was Sourav Ganguly, another big wicket, easily
caught by Arnold at point. He struck the next big blow by cleaning up
Yuvraj Singh (6) with a faster delivery. Later, he snapped up the catch of Harbhajan Singh, standing at silly point under the helmet. Truly a match winning performance which helped Sri Lanka
to win the Coca-Cola Cup by a thumping margin of 121 runs.