From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.35 :: Sep. 02, 2010

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CRICKET / TRI-SERIES

Perera's deadly spell

There was a definite gain for Sri Lanka in the form of pace-bowling all-rounder Thisara Perera. He operated to a probing line around the off-stump, swung and seamed the ball both ways. S. Dinakar reports.

The Indian batting line-up's technical limitations on a seaming track once again came to the fore in the second phase of the Micromax ODI tri-series.

The young Indian batsmen, brought up on flat tracks, struggled to cope as the ball deviated off the seam and in the air. Apart from Virender Sehwag's wonderfully paced match-winning unbeaten 99 against Sri Lanka, the rest of the Indian batting was shown in ordinary light.

In fact, after three games, the next highest individual contribution by an Indian batsman was Yuvraj Singh's 38 in the disastrous second match against the host.

While it is true that the Indians were at the receiving end of at least three faulty umpiring decisions against Sri Lanka, the batsmen did not help their cause either by playing away from the body or across the line.

On surfaces such as the ones at the Rangiri Stadium, a batsman has to be decisive in his feet movement. He has to get forward to counter the movement and know precisely where his off-stump is.

Even in one-day cricket, at least in the formative stages of his innings on these tracks, a batsman has to play straighter, score his runs with firm pushes than big drives and get on to his back-foot to cut and pull the deliveries lacking in length.

In other words, he has to strike a fine balance between survival and making optimum use of the loose deliveries. Judgment is the key.

However, several young batsmen perished when probed in the corridor. The Sri Lankan pacemen mixed the deliveries jagging in with the ones moving away. The Indian batsmen were unable to read the movement.

And the short-pitched deliveries were employed cleverly. Pushed back, the Indian batsmen were, consequently, caught at the crease.

Reputations made on flat tracks count for nothing if the same batsmen are unable to deliver when the pitches have some juice in them. A combination of movement and bounce has proved too much for the Indian batsmen in Dambulla.

India was bundled out for 88 by New Zealand and collapsed to 103 all out against Sri Lanka. In between, the side rode on Sehwag's brilliance to defeat the host after stumbling early.

Apart from Sehwag's one man show, the Indian batting had little to offer. Rohit Sharma is a classic case study of how hype takes precedence over substance. He is a star in the Twenty20 version of the game where the bowlers are severely marginalised. On the demanding surfaces here — there was no devil in the pitches but batting required application and technique — he has been found out. Time and again, he played across the line to be caught in front. Rohit appears to have forgotten to play straight.

There were other batsmen, Suresh Raina among them, who hung their bats tamely outside the off-stump. A tighter game — playing closer to the body — would have enabled the left-hander build a sizable score.

Yuvraj, who recovered quickly from a bout of dengue, did impress with his methods even if his innings was not a substantial one.

Importantly, his feet were moving well; the southpaw was leaning into his front-footed drives and rocking back to cut and pull.

There was a definite gain for Sri Lanka in the form of pace-bowling all-rounder Thisara Perera. He operated to a probing line around the off-stump, swung and seamed the ball both ways. His control and execution of plans were impressive as he picked up five for 28 against India. He is a lively bowler with the right attitude.

The Suraj Randiv no-ball incident dominated the headlines of the local newspapers and then the host captain Kumar Sangakkara found himself in trouble.

He was eventually declared not guilty of a level II charge in the ICC Code of Conduct by match referee Alan Hurst. The Sri Lankan captain was under scrutiny for alleged deliberate physical contact with New Zealand off-spinner Nathan McCullum while turning back for the second run during the truncated game between the sides.

Hurst, in his verdict, said “I looked at video footage of the incident from various angles and considered the detailed evidence of the umpires. I found the evidence that was put forward provided reasonable doubt as to whether the contact was deliberate.”

However, Nathan McCullum was not summoned for the hearing and Sangakkara was unhappy. He said, “It depends on how the charge sheet is made. I feel it should involve both the players. The video evidence could be looked at better. Bowlers could be deliberately standing in your way to stop you from going for the second run. It can create an opportunity for a run-out. I did not have any chance of avoiding him. I tried to move my bat out of the way. I was the only one present and therefore declared not guilty.”

The Sri Lankan captain added, “The charge was that I could have avoided hitting the bowler. I was the only one there so it was a funny situation where I had to defend myself with lots of questions raised. But the match referee saw it from my point of view. He asked me if McCullum was not guilty but I did not comment on it.”

Interestingly, a few of the cricketers were not aware of the rules of the game. Paceman Kyle Mills was suspended for half-an-hour from bowling because he landed a warm-up delivery on the playing surface before the 39th over of the innings against Sri Lanka.

The ICC rule 17.1 says a bowler cannot pitch the ball either on the wicket for the match or the adjoining tracks for the purpose of practice.

Captain Ross Taylor was caught off-guard on that occasion but essentially led his side well. He has hustled the opposition, been aggressive, forced teams to change plans. He effected the bowling changes well, was in control, and appeared to inspire his men. Crucially, Taylor's semi-attacking field placements backed his bowlers.

For Sri Lanka, the pacemen were on target against India, moving the ball and never allowing the pressure to ease. While Lasith Malinga has speed, swing and a mean short-pitched delivery, even men with less firepower such as Nuwan Kulasekara and Angelo Mathews landed the ball in the right areas and seamed it both ways.

Tillekaratne Dilshan showed glimpses of his power-hitting. The classy Mahela Jayawardene revealed his sure touch and soft hands. Comeback man Chamara Silva showed plenty of spunk against the Kiwis.

However, Sehwag's innings against Sri Lanka was the highlight of the competition until this stage. While his hand-eye coordination and bat-speed are his assets, Sehwag, despite lacking correct footwork, is well balanced as he strikes the ball.

He has a still head — a crucial factor — and his body weight is equally distributed. He has a sharp eye as well and like most great batsmen picks the length early and is ready with his response.

THE SCORES

India 103 in 33.4 overs (Yuvraj Singh 38,T. Perera five for 28) lost to Sri Lanka 104 for two in 15.1 overs (M. Jayawardene 33, T. M. Dilshan 35).

Sri Lanka 203 for three in 43.4 overs (T. M. Dilshan 44, K. C. Sangakkara 40, M. Jayawardene 59 not out, L. P. C. Silva 41 not out) against New Zealand. Match abandoned due to rain.

Sri Lanka 170 in 46.1 overs (T. M. Dilshan 45, S. Randiv 43, P. Ojha three for 36) lost to India 171 for four in 34.3 overs (V. Sehwag 99 not out).



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