By Trevor Chesterfield at the R. Premadasa Stadium | March 5, 2011
Ground staff pull covers over the ground as a heavy thunderstorm disrupts the Cricket World Cup match between Australia and Sri Lanka at The R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on March 5, 2011. © AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA.
When they held the media conference on Friday, the Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara faced a curious foreign and local press and electronic corps and his first reaction was a grimace.
It had nothing to do with the thought of what questions he was likely to be asked so much as what was in front of him on the table. Normally it is the de rigueur bottle of the sponsors’ product. This time the bottles of energy drink supplied to the team showed that they had passed their shelf-life date.
A sip would have not been fatal, as was the case up country a week or so ago when a teenage girl died, but it could be said that it was a poisoned chalice; or a harbinger for what became a damp squib in the second big match of the World Cup A-Group in the island.
Suggestions Friday night how rain would play a role, if not create havoc with the game, was also as accurate as Tillakaratne Dilshan’s regulation early dismissal when the scoreboard had six and the batsman four with the game just 10 balls old.
That is Dilshan for you and the selectors would now be wondering about when he is going to put an innings of substance together to show off his talents. He hasn’t done much so far this 10th World Cup to justify his place as opener. But you can guarantee the selectors are not going to drop the 34-year-old right-hander.
As it is, the weather is unseasonal for this time of year. February and March are two of the four driest months of the year on the island and what we are getting are April storms in advance. Yet, as rain streaked the sullen sky over the bays between Colombo and Kalutara, 40 kilometres south of the capital on Friday, there was a repetition tonight. The black mass swirled around the city and its environs and the trishaw driver’s prediction of thunder and lightening, and all the elements of the mythical Norse legend Thor, hammered out his warning of thunder and occasional lightening.
The way Kumar Sangakkara wielded his bat, there was an occasional touch of thunder juxtaposed with typical elegance in his ability to find the gap as well as survive the URDS referral. Not that it mattered as from late afternoon, the storm clouds were brewing and fermenting the way an electrical storm usually announces itself.
There was an impressive assurance about his batting: confidence and style go together as he applied the care and attention in the heat of a battle against an Australian bowling attack, which will have learnt a lesson from this first CWC11 expedition of Sri Lanka. They will no doubt think a little more about their spin options against Pakistan later in the month when the two meet at this Khettarama venue.
Sri Lanka mulled the three-spin option for the game and with dust flying about from as early as the 15th over, the decision of the hosts to go into the game with Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and Ajantha Mendis, dropping Nuwan Kalusekara for Mendis, was an interesting one.
In India, Australia had blasted their opposition apart with the pace option. It didn’t quite work at Khettarama. By the time rain closed the Sri Lanka innings at 146 for three in the 33rd over, there were thoughts that even if the rain did stop and the groundsman and staff had time to get the venue fit again for a game, the chase would have been a tough one.
The problem is that Sri Lankan’s were denied a chance to trial the three-man spin attack and test the Australian batting to see if they could actually work the runs. The cut-off score for a 20 over game was 154. Ricky Ponting admitted that it would have been tough. That is not surprising as the game had reached an interesting stage.
Off-spinner Jason Krejza, who has settled into a solid performer of the art, and part-time all-rounder Steve Smith with his leg-spin were not troubling either Sangakkara or Thilan Samaraweera who had structured a sensible partnership of 71 with careful rotation and always with an eye on the energetic Australian fielding.
As the glowering storm gathered and the Thor elements thundered and crashed about the skies overhead, the hopes of a result of some sort was soon drowned by the elements.
Ponting is hoping to announce the Bollinger replacement on Monday and if they think hard enough, they might go for another spinner as the part-time guys are not going to win games in this part of the world.
The action in Sri Lanka shifts to Pallekele outside Kandy tomorrow where Pakistan and New Zealand are practising for their game on Tuesday. Pakistan left for Pallekele to train quietly, while the Kiwis arrived in Sri Lanka Saturday morning.
This article first appeared on Trevor Chesterfield’s column on Cricketnext.com