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Thursday, July 26, 2001

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Zestful show by Sri Lankans

For a cricket fan, one of the greatest attractions of the one-day game is the fact that it produces seat-edge finishes in every other match. Well, maybe not in every other match but it certainly does quite often. And the fascinating contest in the Coca-Cola Triangular series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand on Wednesday surely witnessed an unexpected climax. This one would rank as one of the best one day matches I have seen in quite a long time.

It was a superb fightback by the Lankans given that they were struggling at 27 for four at one stage. To battle back from such a position took great courage and resourcefulness and the Lankans displayed these virtues in great measure. This one was all about character and the host team came up trumps on that count. The Lankans proved beyond doubt that with sheer determination and will there is nothing that cannot be achieved. Say what you want about adverse conditions, but that is no more than an excuse.

How many times have the Indians been in a similar position in the past, and how many times have they bounced back strongly? Very few instances, as far as I can remember. The so- called good cricketers have always looked at averages rather than the team's welfare when it came to the crunch situations. The Indians can learn a lot from Sri Lanka on the art of run chasing and how the lower middle order should go about its job. India's defeat to Sri Lanka by three wickets still hurts. You can either lose all your wickets to lose a match, or win convincingly but you cannot lose with wickets in hand.

When Marvan Atapattu entered, Sri Lanka was struggling with four wickets down for a paltry 27 runs. He gave meaning to the term sheet anchor. Never getting bogged down by the increasing run rate, rotating the strike, hitting boundaries whenever necessary, his was a responsible and purposeful knock. This is nothing new for Atapattu for he is used to playing such innings.

Russell Arnold and Suresh Perera are surely great assets for the team from the war-torn island. Playing innovative shots under pressure is not easy and today the youngsters did that with aplomb. It was a fine knock by Russel Arnold, who scored his 11th ODI 50.

Everything was not rosy when Perera walked in after Atapattu's dismissal, still they scored at run a ball. The 47th over proved crucial when Perera struck Jacob Oram for two consecutive fours.

Sri Lanka can look forward to better times with these youngsters around. The New Zealanders did bat well under the conditions but they should consider themselves unlucky for they lost to a zestful side.

K. SRIKKANTH

www.krishsrikkanth.com

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