Sanath Jayasuriya and his men, exploded, like a pocket-sized dynamite, at the right time in the AIWA Cup tri-nation Series today at Colombo. This Sri Lanka combination, formed afresh after the Islanders' poor show at the World Cup 1999, had a lot of things to prove to the cricket world in this championship. With a lone win over India in the preliminary league and with a better net run-rate than India, Sri Lanka got into the final to meet the current world champion Australia. Sri Lanka, the 1996 World champion, won the match by eight wickets.What a glorious performance it turned out to be! First the bowlers and fielders did a magnificent job to restrict Australia to a stunning total of 202 in 50 overs.
Pramodya Wickremasinghe , paceman, was his first match in the Series. He was the man who gave the breakthrough by separating a dangerous looking opening pair of Mark Waugh and Gilchrist. The openers were off to a 36 run start in only five overs.Then the spin duo of Muthiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana made the Australians to dance to their tune. Muralithran dismissed the Waugh brothers --Mark and Steve-- with identical deliveries that uprooted the stumps. Chandana removed Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan off successive balls and the Australian score read 126 for five in 31.4 overs. The batting side did not recover from that spot. That itself was a great tribute to the spirit of enthusiasm shown by the Sri Lanka players under the new leader. Nothing went wrong for them on the field today.Restricting Australia for such a weak total that too in the final must have been a pleasant surprise to the cricket-watchers especially to the home crowd.
This was the occasion for Sri Lanka to make the most and begin the new season on a grand note they did that in style. Romesh Kaluwitharana, a pint-sized wicket keeper batsman, had a field day today. Effecting two stumpings in the Australian innings he took his stumpings tally in ODIs to 56, a record. Then, opening the innings with Atapattu, he regaled the audience with some explosive drives and innovative cuts and glances.Kaluwitharana had been the famous opening partner to Jayasuriya. In this Series he was batting lower in the order. Today his captain opted to come down the order. Kaluwitharana regained his old touch. The little man's aggressive approach made the Australian attack look very ordinary for the first time in this Series. He lost Attapattu at 64 (13.4 overs). But found an enterprising partner in Russel Arnold whose daring cut and run variety really frustrated the bowlers.The Kaluwitharana--Arnold pair added 110 runs in 19.2 overs before Arnold (47 in 57 balls) played Jason Gillespie on to his stumps.
Arrived Jayasuriya and the last nail was struck on the Australian coffin sooner than expected. Jayasuriya smashed an unbeaten 26 runs off 23 balls (3x4, 1x6). Fittingly enough, he hit the winning stroke in his characteristic style. A huge six over the mid-wicket fence off Lehmann was the final act. It was sad that Kaluwithrana could not make a century that he would have richly deserved. Anyway, for his grand knock of 95 not out (117 balls