Sri Lanka party interrupted as rain forces abandonment of final

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The Independent Online

It rained on the parade last night. The culmination of Sri Lanka's biggest sporting event, a festival of cricket which has been conducted on the edge of the monsoon season, was washed out after one innings.

It rained on the parade last night. The culmination of Sri Lanka's biggest sporting event, a festival of cricket which has been conducted on the edge of the monsoon season, was washed out after one innings.

The finalists in the Champions Trophy, the hosts and India, will re-group here today and start another match. Nobody from meteorologists to groundsmen and the usual doom merchants are optimistic that they will reach a proper conclusion. If that happens, the match will be declared a tie and the countries will share the title.

It is a daft but apparently unavoidable way to decide the spoils and considering that the weather here always turns at this time of year, it was also always possible. So, a competition which has been frequently derided as being made for television, might simply peter out, leaving the International Cricket Council more than £13m the richer without a champion.

Another abandonment might also concentrate minds on the tournament to be held in England in two year's time. The allotted date is September at present, which is not a traditional month for the game in the old country because it tends to be damp in the mornings, dark in the early evenings, cold and occasionally frosty.

If the Champions Trophy truly is a made-for-television event, those making it for television and spending millions of dollars to do so may suggest that another month is preferable, say July. The England and Wales Cricket Board would be reluctant to stage it then because of its own highly profitable triangular series. But something will have to give.

The pity about the rain so rudely and heavily interrupting the proceedings at the Premadasa Stadium here was that it curtailed a promising match. Sri Lanka had made 244 for 5 without ever setting the packed ground alight. The crowd was almost hysterically fervent but the pitch is far from it. After two weeks of constant cricket the playing surface has grown weary and it made batsmen work hard for their runs.

The truth of this was embodied in the innings of Sri Lanka's top scorer, Sanath Jayasuriya, a batsman whose one-day reputation rests on his ability (more of an insistence really) to destroy opposition's attacks. His 74 took 89 balls, though he was showing signs of getting warmed up when Harbhajan Singh took an outstanding running catch, stretching out both hands after running backwards from mid-on. At least, it would have been outstanding as recently as five years ago. Now, these sophisticated, acrobatic affairs are routine.

India, however, still managed to make matters tougher for themselves by grounding three chances which would have been straight-forward in any era. The great Sachin Tendulkar was guilty on two occasions. Drops do not go on a player's record, of course, but all the other statistics recorded in last night's match will count.

Among the cricketers still in this city – Australia and some of the Pakistani squad remain because they begin a Test series here shortly – there was genuine surprise that England had opted for Robert Key of Kent as their replacement for Graham Thorpe in the Ashes squad. Not because Key is not a good player who deserves an opportunity, but because he is a right-handed opener coming in for a middle order left-hander.

There was another reason too. The Australians really felt that England would opt for Surrey's middle-order batsman Mark Ramprakash because of his experience and his record (an average of 43) against them. Indeed, Ramprakash was the hot tip and perhaps only the embarrassment caused by picking another batsman who had been party to collective Ashes failure so often before persuaded the selectors otherwise. The Aussies said they were pleased that England had decided to go down the novice route. But then they would say that, wouldn't they?

ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY Final (Colombo, Sri Lanka): Sri Lanka 244 for 5 (S T Jayasuriya 74, K C Sangakkara 54); India 14 for 0. Match abandoned. Restart today, 9.30am.

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