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Lanka's home record under threat

Sri Lanka's five-year winning stretch in one-day series at home is under threat as it braces for the second round of the Bank Alfalah Cup against Pakistan and New Zealand.
By Associated Press | PTI, Dambulla (sri Lanka)
PUBLISHED ON MAY 16, 2003 02:56 PM IST

Sri Lanka's five-year winning stretch in limited-overs series at home is under threat as it braces for the second round of the tri-series against Pakistan and New Zealand, when pace bowlers are again expected to dominate.

Sri Lanka has won every limited-overs series it has hosted since July 1998, but its record is in danger as New Zealand and Pakistan appear better equipped to exploit the fast pitches at Dambulla's Rangiri Stadium.

"But we're out to defend our home record, it's a matter of great pride for us and we're not going to give it up without a fight," said Sri Lankan skipper Marvan Atapattu. "We mean business, and we're in the contest for winning this title."

The fresh pitches at the Rangiri Stadium, which had hosted only one limited-overs international before this series, have neutralized Sri Lanka's spin bowling advantage.

With the batting lineup in a form slump, the decision to switch the second round and the final to Dambulla from Colombo due to wet conditions in the capital could help finish Sri Lanka's winning run at home.

"The lively wicket and the overcast weather seems to be better suited for our rivals," Atapattu conceded ahead of Sunday's crucial second-leg encounter with Pakistan. The Sri Lankans lost by 79 runs to Pakistan in the series opener, then beat New Zealand by five wickets.

"The victory over New Zealand has put us back on track," Atapattu said.

All teams have a win and a loss apiece, although New Zealand leads with two bonus points from its comprehensive win over Pakistan and Pakistan has one bonus point from its big win over Sri Lanka. "The series is still wide open, we just need our middle-order batsmen to strike form," Atapattu said.

Pakistan's coach and former test captain Javed Miandad said the one point bonus was negligible, and all three teams have a good chance going into the second round.

"I'm a bit concerned with the fact that winning the toss was a crucial factor," Miandad said Friday.

New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming also said luck of the toss was a crucial factor on the seaming and bouncing pitches. "Unfortunately a lot depends on the toss," Fleming said.

"Such is the nature of the wicket, it's always going to do something."

Sri Lanka's chief pitch adviser Anuruddha Polonowita said only a strong sun could bake the pitches and shift the orientation back toward the batsmen because the moisture content in the middle of the field was very high.

With Pakistan's 199 for eight the highest total in the series, Polonowita said two new pitches were being prepared for the second round and would be likely to produce more runs.

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