Sharjah: Flabbergasted! that just about sums up one's reaction to India's performance in the final of the Sharjah tri-nation Coca Cola Cup. On Sunday Sri Lanka handed India the ignominy of registering a rare double. Firstly it was the lowest total posted by any country at Sharjah (54) and secondly India now has the distinction of being involved in the highest margin of defeat (245). Set a daunting 300 for victory India were bundled out for 54. Sri Lanka on Sunday trampled all over India with a masterly display of all-round cricket.
If massacring the India attack earlier in the day was not enough, the Lankans showed no mercy and simply crushed the Indian effort with the bat even before it could take shape.Ganguly and his men had drained all their mental energy into schemes designed to counter the wizardry of Muralitharan but little did they know that even before Murali could be thought of India's challenge would be well and truly buried.Vaas bagged his first five-wicket haul in One-dayers and laid to rest all the talk that was going around about how India were going to counter Murali. "Final is going to be another day, a different match, " was Ganguly's often stressed statement. Yes, positive approach and positive thinking definitely tops the agenda but if all your positiveness is not translated into intent, commitment and purpose then one better keep one's mouth firmly shut, rather than making aggressive statements.
Murali and Sri Lanka definitely would have had the last laugh and a hearty one at that, especially after statements like "I'm waiting for Murali." As if stung by the statement, Vaas ripped open the Indian top order to aptly turn back to the Indians and say "I am no pushover guys." Vaas accounted for the first four of the Indian batsman. Third time in a row he has out done Ganguly with a short one, while he succeeded in foxing Tendulkar with a slower one.Yuvraj's feet, now, must have come down crashing after having floated for a while in the clouds. He was another of Vaas' victims. And with regards to Kambli the less said the better.Although the match was well and truly in Sri Lanka's grasp before Murali came on to the stage, he did not let that stop him for giving his best.
He swept the remaining three of the four wickets and promptly put it in his kitty.At the beginning of India's chase there was talks of "don't write India off, not with the likes of Sachin and Saurav in the ranks." Well, sometimes we repose more than required faith in our lads.Earlier, India received a through pasting at the hands of Jayasuriya as Sri Lanka pilled up a colossal 299 for five in 50 overs. It was Jayasuriya all the way. From ball one, one got the feeling that there was something magical in store. And magical did it turn out to be? Well, Jayasuriya's knock of 189 of 161 deliveries cannot be termed as any thing less than sublime.
Opting to take first strike, despite the due factor, Sri Lanka soared on the wings of Jayasuriya to dizzy heights in the first ten overs but the departure of Kaluwitharana pulled them back slightly. But despite the setback Sri Lanka maintained a very healthy run rate until there was a change of fortune.The in-form Atapattu was unfortunate to get run out at the non striker's end when a rasping Jayasuriya shot tipped Tendulkar's fingers on its way to the stumps. This dismissal followed by the departure of yet another in-form batsman in Jayawardena considerably slowed down the run rate, which got India right back into the game.The departure of Sangakkara had India right on top but the wily Russel Arnold walked into the scene with confidence oozing all over.
This eased things to a great extent for Jayasuriya and he in the company of Arnold once again resurrected the Sri Lanka cause. And resurrection it was, with even greater sting and venom for the Indians were left licking their wounds. The Jayasuriya-Arnold partnership realised 166 runs at a whirlwind pace. While it is but natural to focus all of ones attention on Jayasuriya for such was his impact on the game, one must not fail to mention the equally important role that Arnold played.
Arnold instilled such a calming effect on the game with his crafty batting and outstanding cricketing sense that, to tell Sri Lanka might have been in a real trouble is an under statement. His knock of 52 of 62 deliveries is as priceless as Jayasuriya's effort.
Man of the Match: Sanath Jayasuriya
Man of the Series: Sanath Jayasuriya