De Silva steers Sri; Lanka to stunning success

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Cricket

DEREK PRINGLE

reports from Lahore

Australia 241-7 Sri Lanka 245-3 (Sri Lanka win by 7 wickets)

In an atmosphere verging on delirium in Lahore's Gaddafi stadium, Sri Lanka won the sixth World Cup, beating Australia by seven wickets with 22 balls to spare. As he does so often under pressure, Aravinda de Silva turned in one of the innings of his life, scoring an unbeaten 107 as he and Arjuna Ranatunga boldly strode home, the first side in World Cup history to win a final batting second.

After all the controversy that shadowed their recent tour of Australia - allegations of ball tampering, and the questions over Muthiah Muralitharan's action - revenge was sweeter than a cup of masala tea and the sight of the Australian players as they wandered around afterwards, utterly unsure of what to say to each other, spoke volumes about the potency of this defeat.

Some sides might consider it their destiny to win the World Cup, but the way in which Sri Lanka have played, it has been their right, from the moment they started their group matches after being awarded two matches by forfeit. Had Australia instead gone to Colombo and continued their recent hegemony over Ranatunga's men, they may never have lost this final.

Sri Lanka played as if possessed, not by demons but by the indignation of their 17 million countrymen, bar those who planted the bomb that brought about Australian and West Indian withdrawals.

However, De Silva's innings would have soothed even the most fevered brow. Coming to the crease at 23 for 2 after both openers had departed, he immediately attacked as he had done under similar circumstances in Calcutta, driving his first ball back past the bowler.

Like Lara, his compact stature helps shorten the length of the ball and what to many appears as a good length ball, is treated with all the disdain of a rank long-hop. Together with Asanka Gurusinha, who scored 65, the pair put on 125 for the third wicket. It was the scalpel that cut through Australian sinew.

Knowing how resilient Australia had proved to be in their previous two matches, De Silva knew he had to get Mark Taylor to burn the resources that had served him so well against the West Indies, and he never allowed Shane Warne to settle, as he carved him through the covers off the back foot.

Having already over-relied on Warne's brilliance on India's variable pitches, Australia discovered that on a pitch greasy with dew, the leg- spinner's magic deserted him, his 10 overs costing 58 runs.

Poor Australia, three miracles in a row ultimately proved beyond them after a total that contained just 14 boundaries, eight of them made by Taylor in his 74. They dropped catches too, three in all, something they claim never to do except in Pakistan and it cost them dear.

Inserted by Ranatunga after he had won the toss, Australia began strongly, particularly through their captain Taylor. Knowing that his team had almost no right to be here, he seemed both determined and able to put his poor form aside, picking off both opening bowlers as their line strayed either side of the wicket.

There was little margin for the faster bowlers and it was surprising that Ranatunga kept them going for so long, conceding over five an over, in spite of the early dismissal of Mr Runs himself, Mark Waugh, after he casually clipped Chaminda Vaas to square leg.

Taylor, whose 50 came from 62 balls, and Ricky Ponting, more assured after peeling a thunderous square cut off the middle, had kept the scoreboard rotating with a clutch of well placed boundaries. After 20 overs, Australia were 110 for 1, and looking well poised to hoist a total in excess of 280.

However, once Taylor went, caught on the sweep by Jayasuriya, the Aussie one-day method - which is still steeped in the traditions of Bradman and Stan McCabe, relying as it does more on the clever placement of orthodox strokes, and positive running between the wickets than the vulgar - dried up.

With no big strikers to open the field up, Sri Lanka's trio of off-spinners, supported by some busy fielding, proved difficult to milk. With the thought of the opposition's batting strikeforce clearly niggling away in the back of their minds, frustration began to creep in.

With the score on 152, Ponting was bowled giving himself room off De Silva, who then took a neat catch running in from long-on after Steve Waugh skied a leading edge off Dharmasena. In the space of 10 overs, Australia, after a strong start had lost three wickets for just 29 runs and handed authority back to Sri Lanka.

As if to taunt Aussie machismo, Ranatunga brought in a silly point. The fielder did not stay long, but his intentions were clear - Sri Lanka were not going to be cowed. Only Michael Bevan, with an unbeaten 36, managed to get the target close to defendable proportions, though, as it later transpired, the Australians were without the resources to defend it.

As the roar that signified the winning hit went up from the crowd, only the hundreds of bats and moths that flitted under the lights seemed oblivious to the momentous victory. The whole world now knows of mighty Sri Lanka.

World Cup final scoreboard

(Sri Lanka won toss)

AUSTRALIA

*M A Taylor c Jayasuriya b De Silva 74

M E Waugh c Jayasuriya b Vaas 12

R T Ponting b De Silva 45

S R Waugh c De Silva b Dharmasena 13

S K Warne st Kaluwitharana

b Muralitharan 2

S G Law c De Silva b Jayasuriya 22

M G Bevan not out 36

I A Healy b De Silva 2

P R Reiffel not out 13

Extras (lb10, w11, nb1) 22

Total (for 7, 50 overs) 241

Fall: 1-36, 2-137, 3-152, 4-156, 5-170, 6-202, 7-205.

Did not bat: D W Fleming, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Wickremasinghe 7-0-38-0; Vaas 6-1-30-1; Muralitharan 10-0-31- 1; Dharmasena 10-0-47-1; Jayasuriya 8-0-43-1; De Silva 9-0-42-3.

SRI LANKA

S T Jayasuriya run out 9

K S Kaluwitharana c Bevan b Fleming 6

A P Gurusinha b Reiffel 65

P A de Silva not out 107

*A Ranatunga not out 47

Extras (b1, lb4, w5, nb1) 11

Total (for 3, 46.2 overs) 245

Fall: 1-12, 2-23, 3-148.

Did not bat: H P Tillekeratne, R S Mahanama, W P U C J Vaas, M Muralitharan, H D P K Dharmasena, G P Wickremasinghe.

Bowling: McGrath 8.2-1-28-0; Fleming 6-0-43-1; Warne 10-0-58-0; Reiffel 10-0-49-1; M E Waugh 6-0-35-0; S R Waugh 3-0-15-0; Bevan 3-0-12-0.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D R Shepherd (Eng).

SRI LANKA WON BY SEVEN WICKETS

Dream teams

Derek Pringle

1 Mark Waugh (Australia)

2 Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)

3 Brian Lara (West Indies)

4 Sachin Tendulkar (India)

5 Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka)

6 Steve Waugh (Australia)

7 Ian Healy (Australia)

8 Wasim Akram (Pakistan, capt)

9 Shane Warne (Australia)

10 Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)

11 Waqar Younis (Pakistan)

Robert Winder

1 Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)

2 Romesh Kaluwitharana (Sri Lanka)

3 Sachin Tendulkar (India)

4 Brian Lara (West Indies, capt)

5 Mark Waugh (Australia)

6 Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka)

7 Steve Waugh (Australia)

8 Shane Warne (Australia)

9 Anil Kumble (India)

10 Waqar Younis (Pakistan)

11 Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)

Henry Blofeld

1 Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka)

2 Sachin Tendulkar (India)

3 Mark Waugh (Australia)

4 Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka)

5 Brian Lara (West Indies)

6 Hansie Cronje (South Africa, capt)

7 Ian Healy (Australia)

8 Wasim Akram (Pakistan)

9 Shane Warne (Australia)

10 Glenn McGrath (Australia)

11 Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)

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