They Came Without Much Practice And Grabbed The Emirates Trophy at Lords

By Thilak S. Fernando

Sri Lankan cricketers came to England as champions, after winning their world cup title, to participate in the Emirates Triangular Tournament and made history again at the Mecca of cricket by grabbing the Emirates Trophy after beating England with five wickets and seventeen balls to spare.

It was only a few days ago, earlier in the week, that Sri Lanka was humiliated with a defeat by England during the second round of the Triangular Tournament when captain Arjuna Ranatunge himself admitted their defeat due to bad fielding, hopeless bowling and not seizing the opportunity. Commentators at the commentary box at the Lords grounds were quick to predict Sri Lanka¹s future with regard to next year¹s World Cup tournament and writing them completely off as winners. English cricket commentators are at times synonymous with the British weather when it comes to criticise international teams other than their own ­ quite unpredictable and capable of adjusting itself any situation! One could hardly believe the criticism Sri Lanka received when they were beaten by England three days ago and the praise when Sri Lanka started to emerge victorious in the final game on thrusday.

The play commenced in the morning on Thursday and Knight and Atherton dominated the game for England with high performance batting. When this opening pair passed the hundred mark it was assumed that the chances of a Sri Lanka win was only in the far distant horizon. Yet how amazing and unpredictable this game of cricket can be?

Muralitharan exerting pressure on the England batsmen and taking five wickets in his allocated ten overs for thirty four runs made the way for Sri Lanka to enter back into the game again. With a comfortable lead created by the opening pair England earmarked a staggering score of three hundred at the end of the day but such hopes were soon dashed as the wickets fell to Murali and the most disappointed England team were now struggling for survival. Finally they ended up with 256 for 8 wickets at the end of the allocated fifty overs of play.

When Sri Lanka came to bat it seemd to be a simple walkover until Sanath Jayasuriya demoralised the team by getting out for a duck for a full length ball. Marvin Atapattu soon taking charge of the challenge continued quite sensibly grinding and scoring all the while whenever a lose ball came his way. At first he broke Sidath Wettamuni¹s highest score in one day cricket in Sri Lanka in 1982 when he scored 50 runs in 61 balls and entered into the Lords record book by entering into the 4th place among highest scores at Lords during a one day international by hitting 100 runs in 134 balls.

Looking at Sri Lanka¹s overall performance of the final match of the Triangular Trophy nothing very much can be said about the veterans such as Sanath Jayasuriya or Arjuna Ranatunge for their contribution ­ Sanath going for a duck and Arjuna scoring a single run. After Sanath Jayasuriya¹s wicket Aravinda de Silva and Marvin Atapattu cemented the game with a steady partnership of over 100 runs and Hashan Tillakaratne coming later supported Atapattu in a sensible and professional manner and made Sri Lanka¹s win a reality by hitting the final winning run.

Sri Lanka received the Emirates Trophy and a prize cheque for £15,000 Rs.1,605,000). Muralithanran was chosen as the man of the match as taking five wickets for 34 runs in a one day international game was considered a rare occasion. He received a cheque for £1500 and Marvin Atapattu who was classified as a most sensible player and the grinder of the match was chosen as the man of the Triangular series and received a cheque for £2,500.

Sri Lanka is due to play their one only Test Match at the Oval next Thursday.