Cricket: Ganguly and Dravid shatter the champions

World Cup: Sri Lanka devastated as Indian batsmen run riot with biggest one-day international stand of all time: India 373-6 Sri Lanka 216 India win by 157 runs
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The Independent Online
SLAUGHTER DOES not begin to describe it. The 7,000 or so crammed into the County Ground were witness to one of the most sustained and murderous assaults seen in one-day international cricket as India's Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid cut loose on Sri Lanka's attack.

The pair plundered 318 runs for the second wicket - a record partnership in all one-day international cricket, obliterating the World Cup record for any wicket of 237 set four days earlier by Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar against Kenya - as they helped India amass the second-highest total in World Cup history. The message is clear. India are motoring and ready to take on anyone.

Unfortunately England are next up on Saturday. Edgbaston will be a seething cauldron of tension as Group A comes to the boil. At stake will be second place in the group and two valuable points to carry through to the Super Six stage. Sri Lanka, the World Cup holders, are effectively out of the tournament.

There was heightened security for this match, officials fearing a volatile atmosphere could explode into mayhem at any time with exuberant fans spilling on to the pitch - unfounded fears, as things turned out. In fact the security problems were confined to the middle, the Sri Lankans discovering difficulties in preventing the ball from leaving the field.

Sure, Sri Lanka made a fist of it, and while Aravinda de Silva was making his way to a stylish half-century there was hope. But his departure just over halfway through their innings, followed by that of Arjuna Ranatunga, saw that fantasy fade and the harder edge of reality cut in. The Indian bowling was just too niggardly and too accurate - Robin Singh finished with an impressive 5 for 31 - the fielding far tighter than that of their opponents.

Earlier the Sri Lanka attack had been turned into a moveable object when confronted by the irresistible force that was the Indian second-wicket pairing. It is doubtful that, had they had the services of the 25 or so Royal Marines and sailors who had been drafted in to add military might to the security force of around 60, they would have been able to ring- fence the outfield, so difficult was it to contain the batsmen.

In a way it could be argued that Sri Lanka brought the hail of runs on themselves because Ranatunga opted to field on a good batting track after winning the toss. There was certainly plenty of swing in the heavy atmosphere and some early movement off the pitch, as the fourth ball of the Indian innings bore witness to when Sadagopan Ramesh was bowled all ends up by a beauty.

Man-of-the-match Ganguly and Dravid had to negotiate a tricky few overs before they were finally able to assert themselves. But when they did it was to devastating effect. For some 10 overs they pillaged at will, until the brakes were applied by Muttiah Muralitharan.

However, while neither batsman looked too comfortable against the wily off-spinner, taking occasional singles off him in his first spell of seven overs, they were able to make up lost ground at the other end where no one was spared.

Sri Lanka's chief problem was that they lacked a fifth front-line bowler. The three stooges they called on to bowl the remaining 10 overs, Mahela Jayawardena, Sanath Jayasuriya and De Silva, were mere cannon fodder for the ravenous Ganguly in particular. The left-hander punished anything short or over-pitched, fearing nothing and, as a result, the ball met the middle of his bat with monotonous regularity. The trio did pick up a couple of wickets among them but they came at a price - 81 runs to be precise.

Ganguly launched the first of his seven sixes off De Silva far over the heads of the crowd, the ball eventually ricocheting off the pavilion wall.

That was just the beginning. Thereafter it rained boundaries. There was one nightmare over for Eric Upashantha, who should hereafter be called Eric The Unsteady. His last over went for 21 runs, including a six and three fours all to Ganguly, and earlier ones for 16 and 11.

All the while at the other end there was Dravid. He picked up where he had left off at Bristol four days previously when he had scored an unbeaten century. His 145 was as much a study in savagery as Ganguly's, lasting 129 balls and containing a six and 17 boundaries. The last 10 overs yielded an incredible 138 runs, the last 20, 200.

Dravid's end came as a result of a throw by Muralitharan, a legitimate one on this occasion, from deep fine-leg which hit the stumps. Ganguly had passed 150 by then and, when he was dismissed, to the penultimate ball of the innings, he had faced 158 balls and had lashed 16 fours in addition to his batch of sixes, having made the second highest individual score in the World Cup. And, more importantly, having brought so much pleasure to so many in so brief a time.

RECORD BREAKERS: DRAVID AND GANGULY'S LANDMARKS

n Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly's second-wicket stand of 318 is the highest for any wicket in one-day internationals. The previous record of 275 was set by Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja, for the fourth wicket, against Zimbabwe in 1998. Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar set the previous World Cup record of 237 against Kenya in India's previous game.

n Ganguly's innings of 183 is the second highest in World Cup history, after the South African Gary Kirsten's unbeaten 188 against the United Arab Emirates in the 1996 World Cup. It is the highest individual score of the 1999 World Cup.

n Ganguly lies fourth in the all-time one-day record list behind Pakistan's Saeed Anwar (194 against India in 1997), West Indies' Viv Richards (189 not out against England in 1984) and Kirsten.

n Dravid's innings of 145 makes him only the second player in World Cup history to score centuries in successive games. He hit an unbeaten 104 against Kenya. Australia's Mark Waugh scored successive centuries in the 1996 World Cup against Kenya (130) and India (126). Waugh scored 110 against New Zealand later in the same tournament.

n India's score of 373 for 6 is second-highest total in World Cup and international history, bettered only by the 398 for 5 scored by Sri Lanka against Kenya in the 1996 World Cup.

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