DAY-GLO CRICKET came to England yesterday and the winners were in the royal blue and gold of Sri Lanka. If it is difficult to believe that the Emirates triangular tournament is the first occasion that coloured clothing and white balls have been used for international cricket in England, the spectacle did not look out of place, and the 9,000 spectators present appeared to enjoy their first day of cricket in the 21st century.
Put into bat, after South Africa had won the toss, the World Cup holders won by 57 runs. To add insult to injury Sri Lanka did not use 13 of their allotted balls, after being bowled out for 259, a total that owed as much to their flying start as South Africa's sloppy bowling.
Having played their part in wearing Hansie Cronje's men down, England had better beware at Lord's on Sunday; Sri Lanka look spirited and very dangerous.
Pundits have long claimed that pinch hitting was ill-suited to English conditions and only for the foolhardy. Well Sri Lanka have disproved that theory. On a green Trent Bridge pitch their two exponents of the "trade" (art is perhaps too refined) Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana thrashed 79 runs in 10 overs.
Obviously a modicum of luck is required and Jayasuriya was dropped off the first ball of the match, Symcox spilling a difficult chance at mid- off. Undeterred by his near miss, the left-hander continued unabated, his strokes wristy and as smooth as a Rolex movement speeded up.
His secret is not to slog indiscriminately, but to get enough bat on the ball to clear the infield though feeding him width, as South Africa did, is as close an invitation to printing runs as bowling Ian Salisbury.
No shrinking violet either, Kaluwitharana struck his first ball for four, an audacious shot straight back over Steve Ellworthy's head. It was not the only shot of its type and it would have come as no surprise if Ellworthy had sustained a bad neck as he craned it to watch two more disappear in his next over.
As usual South Africa waited to use Allan Donald as first change. Unusually the breakthrough came at the other end where Kallis saw Kaluwitharana slice his first-ball loosener high into the covers where Cronje took a comfortable catch.
Donald, his sore heel now loose, could not be denied for long. Coming round the wicket he had Jayasuriya dropped by Pollock, a miss the fast bowler rectified with his very next ball as the opener, playing a rare defensive push, edged behind.
With the fast bowler striking again in his next over, this time with the prize wicket of Aravinda de Silva, caught by Kirsten at cover, South Africa had got themselves back into the game. But if they stemmed the flow of runs off the bat, they leaked wides and by the time the innings closed they had conceded 39 extras.
After the pyrotechnics of the first 15 overs the middle portion was fairly tame and there was a period of steady accumulation expertly marshalled by Arjuna Ranatunga, the slimmed-down Sri Lankan captain.
A roly poly figure - he once told journalists he came from a fat family - Ranatunga has lost 22lb by keeping away from fried foods. With that being the case, there was some irony in the advertising logo on his bat depicting not the name of a bat company, but something called "Sam's Chicken and Ribs."
Rules on personal sponsorship are fairly strict and unless Sam has a lathe by the deep fryer to make his own bats Ranatunga, normally sponsored by a Sri Lankan shipping company, is in breach of International Cricket Council regulations.
Apart from being summoned to the match referee's office, what rounded the whole thing off was that the new slimline Ranatunga, having made a polished 58 off 91 balls, was run out going for two. As he had run the first run short, no runs were added to the total. Allegedly hit on the knee while batting, he later spent the South Africa innings having treatment on a sore knee.
His presence was not missed and De Silva ran a disciplined ship in his absence. In contrast to their opponents, Sri Lanka's bowlers tend to pack the offside field and then bowl outside off-stump, particularly in the first 15 overs when all but two fielders have to be within 30 yards of the bat.
South Africa's attempts to make hay foundered and after Kirsten had dragged the first ball of the innings on to his stumps, they found themselves 66-5 and struggling, Pramodya Wickramasinghe having taken 3-20 in his first seven overs.
That they even got close owed much to Jonty Rhodes, who in partnership with Symcox, promoted up the order, added a 100 runs in 99 balls. However, with both Rhodes and Symcox perishing in the deep to Kumara Dharmasena's off-spin to leave them 175 for 7 in the 39th over, the game was all but over.
A fact duly concluded when Donald was bowled by Dharmasena for 12.Reuse content