What a game it was! A fitting final regardless of which team you support. When Sri Lanka won the toss and put the Bengalis in I thought, "This will be quick".
The Bangladeshis managed 152 in 49.4 overs. Kulasekara took 3-19, Nuwan has been quietly chipping away at the wickets, he was the 3rd highest ODI wicket taker in 2008.
Terrible shot selection led to the Bengali’s downfall, with the exception of one Kulasekara inswinger, all the other batsman were out trying to play extravagant shots. Mendis too finished with impressive figures of 3-24 at a miserly economy rate of just 2.48 in 9.4 overs.
In the 3rd match of this series Bangladesh successfully chased down the Sri Lankan total in 31 overs. They had to go for it and no fingers were pointed at their dismissals in the mainstream press. In the final however there was no need to charge down the pitch, as Thamim Iqbal did, there just was no need for quick fire runs on a ‘green top’.
Then the Sri Lankan run chase began. When half the side was down and the score remained on single digits, I strongly felt we were on the verge of setting a new record. An all time low for a batting side on the decline.
Has anyone else noticed? Our recent successes have been largely thanks to Messrs Sanath Jayasuriya and Ajantha Mendis? When the Matara Mauler fails, the rest of our batting crumbles and fails to put on a score of any value. Thankfully we have BAW Mendis to fall back on. This final however belonged to the magic of Murali.
With his wife and her entourage present and cheering vociferously at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. Murali came through, came through like a knight in shining armour, he did. Waiving his bat to his wife, the fair maiden in the crowd, Murali celebrated with so much youthful exuberance. A sign that he still loves his cricket even this late in his career. Murali’s exploits with the bat pulled Sri Lanka out of the quagmire. The ship was sinking and an embarrassing loss was on the cards. Not a soul could predict Murali smashing 20 runs in an over. Sri Lanka were 118/8 and Murali was on two. Would you believe the next 6 balls went for 4,4,2,4,0,6? Suddenly Sri Lanka were back in the game.
Earlier Sri Lanka’s top order folded in gut wrenching fashion. Sri Lanka were at one point 5 for 6. No I didn’t miss any digits. They were five wickets down for a mere six runs. This is nothing extraordinary for the Lankans. How many times has our top order failed? Too many..
Tharanga barbecued Jayasuriya in the very first ball. It was the strikers call and Tharanga responded too late. By the time he realised he needed to call out "No", Jayasuriya was half way down the pitch. Sanath was out for a duck without facing a single ball. That set the pattern for how the rest would follow.
WU Tharanga 2 (For BBQ’ing Sanath earlier on he decided to lash out at a good length ball with a nothing kind of shot on the up.)
DPMD Jayawardene 0 (Mahela laid a nice big egg in his two ball stay at the crease – displayed remarkable skill in giving slip catching practice.)
CK Kapugedera 1 (Poor bugger, got a good ball that left him off the pitch. The Bangladeshis played some part in all this..it wasn’t all our doing.)
T Thushara 1 (Why would you send a slogger this early up the order? Hitting it a long way doesn’t make him a batsman.)
Sangakkara brought the total to some respectability with the aid of Mubarak and later Maharoof. Sanga was dismissed after scoring 59 valuable runs. He batted with some grace when batsmen from both teams struggled. Sangakkara deservedly won the man of the match award for his 59 runs and 4 catches in the game.
What a final it was. Murali made the headlines but there is hardly anything to celebrate. With a tour to Pakistan just four days away, and an Indian tour looming, Sri Lanka finds its self worrying deeply about it’s batting. Sanath Jayasuriya is an absolute must in a squad that relies solely on his batting. Those who call for his retirement need shock therapy so they can wake up and smell the crap brewing. It may even be time to give players like Warnapura and Samaraweera, solid contemporary batsman, a steady run in the squad. Pakistan hope to knock us over with pace and knowing our vulnerability each and every batsman in the team must ask themselves, "What have I done for Sri Lanka lately?"