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Sluggish New Zealanders slip on a sticky wicket

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BANG ON TARGET: Muralitharan strikes and Jacob Oram is gone.
BANG ON TARGET: Muralitharan strikes and Jacob Oram is gone.

G. Viswanath

Sri Lanka registers seven-wicket win: best effort by Muralitharan on Indian soil

Mumbai: The Sri Lankan riposte to a hostile spell from Shane Bond was bold and swift.

Sanath Jayasuriya, a master at flaying the new ball coming at him at a speed of over 140 kmph and shoulder height, stole the thunder from Bond, who was intent on making inroads and making an impact.

Bond looked the part, right from running in straight from the top of his bowling mark to sending the ball at good pace and extracting lift.

Bond looked a natural, but Jayasuriya's shots were just effortless. Though he made only 20, he gave a bright start in pursuit of a small target of 166, which Sri Lanka reached in 36 overs losing just three wickets.

Century maker in the first two matches of the Champions Trophy, Upul Tharanga was clueless, even facing a beamer he played with the full face of the bat.

Bond was promptly warned by umpire Aleem Dar. Bond bowled an expensive first spell of four overs, conceding 36 runs. It was an off-colour performance by the speedster who was playing his first match of the competition.

Taking control

After Jayasuriya's exit, Sri Lanka advanced with Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene controlling the proceedings.

The left-hander Tharanga was put through the wringer by Bond and Mills, but after the initial period of doubt, he played some delightful shots.

So did the experienced Jayawardene whose opening shot was a back-foot punch that split cover and extra-cover. Thereafter the fourth-wicket pair completed a task with consummate ease.

Earlier, Daniel Vettori had turned out to be a gallant fighter, inspiring a splendid rearguard action that provided a flicker of hope for New Zealand, following a reverse against Pakistan at Jaipur.

Vettori was, on Friday, called upon to deliver substantial runs with the bat. Vettori has scored a little over 1000 runs in one-dayers, and on an afternoon when a majority of his colleagues looked nervous and unable to put a punishing blade to the ball, Vettori and his off-spinning partner Jeetan Patel baulked the Sri Lankan seamers for 66 balls.

The two boosted the New Zealand score from 118 for nine to 165, which was a far cry from a par score on a pitch that had been tinkered with a builder's glue in order to rejuvenate it.

Peculiar process

The peculiar process adopted by the International Cricket Council's pitch curator Andy Atkinson did not offer sufficient evidence of the ball getting up off the surface when Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga were in action. The game and the initiators of the desperate move had to wait till the likes of a real speed merchant like Bond and Kyle Mills operated with the new ball at the nightfall hour to ascertain the effectiveness of the adhesive.

New Zealand's specialist batsmen were curious onlookers, except for Nathan Astle, who preferred to deal with the situation by his judgment of the bowler's line and length and not let the meddled pitch cause him anxiety.

Playing the ball late, and not half way, was the main feature of his batting for an hour and 45 minutes. As a matter of fact, he was the first New Zealand batsman to hit the first boundary shot in the 47th ball of the innings after Fleming had elected to bat.

Thereafter, Astle straight drove Vaas, used his wrist to punch Farveez Maharoof through the gap between mid-wicket and mid-on and executed the shot-arm cut off the same bowler who had, a week ago, achieved his best with a six-wicket haul against the West Indies. He found an effective way to sweep Muttiah Muralitharan, before falling prey to the off-spinner.

The tactic of employing a double spin-attack worked well with Jayasuriya removing Scott Styris off the third ball of his first over and Muralitharan getting rid of Jacob Oram in the fourth ball of his first over.

Once Muralitharan appeared on the scene with the ball, runs on a pitch that afforded slow turn came at a premium.

He finished with four for 23, his best effort on Indian soil and became the highest wicket taker in the Champions Trophy, displacing West Indian Mervyn Dillon's collection of 19. Muralitharan was declared the `man of the match.'

SCOREBOARD

New Zealand: L. Vincent b Maharoof 13, S. Fleming lbw b Vaas 0, N. Astle c Malinga b Muralitharan 42, H. Marshall c Dilshan b Malinga 4, Styris c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 3, J. Oram b Muralitharan 6, B. McCullum c Jayawardene b Muralitharan 9, D. Vettori (not out) 46, K. Mills lbw b Muralitharan 6, S. Bond c Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 1, J. Patel c Jayawardene b Malinga 10, Extras (lb-8, nb-7, w-10) 25; Total (all out, in 49.2 overs) 165.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-37, 3-56, 4-66, 5-82, 6-87, 7-101, 8-115, 9-118.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 10-1-41-1, Malinga 9.2-1-22-2, Maharoof 8-0-34-1, Jayasuriya 10-0-26-2, Muralitharan 10-1-23-4, Dilshan 2-0-11-0.

Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga st McCullum b Patel 56, S. Jayasuriya c MuCullum b Mills 20, M. Jayawardene c Vettori b Patel 48, K. Sangakkara (not out) 19, M. Atapattu (not out) 10, Extras: (lb-1, nb-8, w-4) 13; Total: (for three wkts, in 36 overs) 166.

Fall of wickets: 1-50, 2-134, 3-135.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 5-0-24-1, Bond 7-0-46-0, Oram 4-0-14-0, Vettori 10-0-45-0, Patel 9-0-32-2, Astle 1-0-4-0.

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