Cricket: McGrath knocks stuffing out of Sri Lanka

Australia 270; Sri Lanka 190 Australia win by 80 runs
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The Independent Online
IT WAS too much to expect Sri Lanka to climb another mountain. If they were not drained emotionally by the events of the previous 24 hours, they must have been physically exhausted.

Australia won the Carlton & United series match in Adelaide yesterday by 80 runs and if Sri Lanka did not quite roll over, they had too little strength remaining to stand up and fight. When Glenn McGrath unleashed an exemplary burst of fast bowling, achieving the sort of unerring bounce that tends to undermine the very best, and always troubling the Sri Lankans, the outcome was not in doubt.

The match was Sri Lanka's fourth in six days and their second on consecutive days. They had won two in a row to haul themselves back into contention in the triangular tournament and had chased 303 to beat England the day before.

But they came to the ground yesterday wreathed in controversy. Their star off-spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, had been no-balled for throwing against England, while their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, was facing charges from the match referee for his part in the subsequent incidents. Rumours had been rife all afternoon that they would withdraw from the competition but a message filtered through from their board president, Thailanga Sumathipala, that they intended to continue.

Australia did not sustain the momentum of the initial stages of their innings. Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh gave them the quickest of starts and for a moment it was possible to expect record-breaking totals. But these Sri Lankans are tough competitors.

When Muralitharan started his spell, not under any threat of being no- balled, the scoring slowed. The pitch was not as flat as it had been the previous day and encouraged a little turn. Still, seven of Australia's batsmen reached 20 but only one passed 50. A total of 270 seemed within Sri Lanka's sights.

Not for long. McGrath was in one of his meaner moods - not that he has many light ones on the pitch - and was probably not well disposed to being hit for 10 in his first over. He tore in from then on and his steep lift was never likely to be avoided by the Sri Lankans. A measure of its effectiveness is that it accounted for batsmen as accomplished as Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu and Ranatunga.

After the early incisions, Roshan Mahanama and Upul Chandana assembled a brisk partnership, growing in assertiveness. But it had some distance to travel before it became truly threatening and Shane Lee, one of several Australian replacements, ended it with two wickets in two balls.

Australia are second in the qualifying table while England remain in the lead. The pair play the third of three matches in Adelaide tomorrow, Australia Day. Victory for England would all but seal their passage into the three-match final. But things change quickly in one-day cricket.

It is not that Australia are looking formidable, particularly with captain Steve Waugh likely to miss the rest of the competition with a hamstring injury, but England have lost a match by conceding 303 runs in the second innings.