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Anti-climax: Colombo showers have the final say
Sunil Narula , PTI
Colombo, October 01, 2002
First Published: 00:36 IST(1/10/2002)
Last Updated: 00:46 IST(1/10/2002)

For the second consecutive day, rain came pounding in to throw the final of the Champions Trophy between India and Sri Lanka into disarray. Like it had happened on Sunday, the match had to be abandoned on Monday. No result was possible even on the reserve day and both teams shared the title.

It was a huge anti-climax as the match was headed towards a scintillating finish with India having reached 38 for one after 8.4 overs. They were chasing 223 for victory. Even as the drizzle threatened to turn into a downpour, Virender Sehwag unleashed a massive cut that went all the way over the point boundary for a six. At that moment, the umpires decided that the showers were too heavy and play was suspended.

Further cricket at the Premadasa Stadium was not possible as rain grew heavier and the chances of play resuming evaporated completely.

India won the Champions Trophy for the first time. Sri Lanka did the same. But the victory was not as sweet as it would have been, had any one of the teams emerged clear winners. This was the third edition of the Champions Trophy after South Africa won the inaugural event in Dhaka in 1998 and New Zealand claimed the title in Nairobi two years ago.

When play began Monday afternoon, things started going India's way with the first ball of the match. Zaheer Khan clean bowled dangerous hitter Sanath Jayasuriya and Sri Lanka could never recover completely from that jolt.

With Jayasuriya gone for a duck Sri Lanka could manage 222 for seven in their fifty overs and the target would not have proved too difficult for the Indians, given the way Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were going about the task.

Once again, Virender Sehwag and Dinesh Mongia opened the batting for India in their pursuit of 223. Mongia failed to make an impression as he was dismissed by Chaminda Vaas, mistiming a pull.

Sachin Tendulkar was promoted in the batting order but he had a lucky escape on the first ball he faced. He was late on the ball as it crashed into his front pad. The ball was heading towards the stumps and if Steve Bucknor had referred it to the third umpire, Tendulkar would have been declared leg-before. But Bucknor, for some reason, ignored the TV replays. The next ball Tendulkar flicked to the fence and started batting sedately thereafter.

Earlier, both India and Sri Lanka made one change each from the team that played on Sunday. Sourav Ganguly realised the futility of playing the extra paceman on the spin-friendly wicket and quite correctly brought back Anil Kumble into the side. The axe should have fallen on Ajit Agarkar but Srinath was the one who was dropped after being called all the way from England, especially for this one match.

Srinath had gone for 55 runs from his eight overs on Sunday and that probably weighed on Ganguly's mind. But Agarkar was no less expensive on Monday with Aravinda de Silva blasting five fours in one particular over that cost 23 runs.

Aravinda scored a brisk 27 before Kumble removed him to claim his 299th victim in one-day internationals.

Sri Lanka changed the batting order today with Kumar Sangakkara opening with his captain. The Lankan wicket-keeper was going quite smoothly before Mahela Jayawardene called him for a suicidal run and then sent him back to leave no hope for him.

The pressure piled on Jayawardene after that mistake and he handled it well by producing a crucial innings of 77 to give the home team at least some hope of staging a fightback. The other important knock in the Sri Lankan innings came from Russel Arnold, who remained unbeaten with 56 and gave the final thrust that took the total beyond the 220 mark.

The Indian slow bowlers did a fine job with Harbhajan Singh, Kumble and Sehwag all bowling tight spells. Even on a wicket that was not too conducive for fast bowling, Zaheer Khan was exceptional with his late-swinging yorkers. He was also the most successful Indian bowler with three wickets for 44 runs.

There was minor altercation on the field when captain Ganguly objected to Arnold running in the middle of the wicket with his batting spikes. Ganguly realised the pitch could prove to be difficult later in the evening and Arnold was not helping things with his boot marks.

Umpires Steve Bucknor and David Shepherd cooled things, but Ganguly had made his point and Arnold stayed clear from the middle after that.

The Sri Lankans also went in for the extra spinner today by bringing back Kumara Dharmasena. They dropped Pulasathi Gunaratne from the team that played the rain-marred game on Sunday. That decision did not prove to be too smart as rain once again disrupted the show.

It was an extremely wet ending and dampened the spirits of the huge crowd. Many spectators here felt that the match should have resumed from where it was halted on Sunday. That way a clear result would have been possible. But the playing conditions of the tournament had been drawn up much in advance and could not have been changed.

Sourav Ganguly said afterwards that the Indian team had performed very well throughout the tournament and was looking forward to the World Cup in South Africa early next year.

"We have to keep up this good form and carry it into the World Cup in four months time," said Ganguly.

Sanath Jayasuriya said his team had worked extremely hard after the poor performance on the England tour. "We have tried to correct the mistakes we made in England. We did well in the Morocco Cup after that and now here in the Champions Trophy," he added.


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