Silver lining for a one-day wonder

Stephen Fay applauds the little man who made a big contribution
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THE man of the match was the man who made a match of it. Aravinda de Silva could think only of one other one-day innings he had played that was as good as the 112 he scored for Kent yesterday, and he has played more than 100 of these as captain of Sri Lanka. But there were not many people at Lord's who could remember a better 100 in a one-day final.

He played 95 balls, hit three sixes and 10 fours before being caught on the midwicket boundary by Graham Lloyd. In fact, if there was anything wrong with the innings, it was that he did not get enough of the strike.

De Silva began extravagantly, pulling two sixes off Ian Austin, and then two fours in the next over. Mike Watkinson, Lancashire's captain, observed that since de Silva took the game to Lancashire, they deliberately kept him away from the strike. "It was a mistake on our part not to have me face more," said de Silva. It seems almost churlish to have any complaint at all about his innings. Besides his instinctive feeling for the pull, he cover-drove Wasim Akram when he was bowling at his fiercest; and he played a full range of shots off Glen Chapple, cutting him finely for four, pulling and driving for further boundaries and then hitting another six.

He is a tiny man, 5ft 31/2in tall, with jet black hair, a prominent nose and a diamond stud in his ear. He is not especially well known to the public, but good cricketers have known about him for more than a decade. When he made his test debut against Pakistan, Imran Khan immediately judged him one of the best players of fast bowling he had ever seen.

De Silva is playing for Kent because Carl Hooper is touring with the West Indies, and he has been enjoying a wonderful run recently in county cricket (his last six scores are 52, 115, 225, 16, 255 and 116), but his form in all kinds of one-day cricket has been execrable (an average of 17 in 16 innings with a top score of 43).

He believes his poor one-day form is a consequence of Kent's good year; he has often come in to bat when there are plenty of runs on the board and he is required to force the pace. "I was so determined to make some runs and try to win this one," he said.

And how would Kent live with defeat? "I'm sure the boys will give 100 per cent every time they play," he replied. Aravinda de Silva doesn't only excel at the crease, he has also learned the language of English cricketers.