Malinga sparks unexpected comeback after Barath ton

Lasith Malinga

By Trevor Chesterfield | January 31, 2011

Lasith Malinga
Lasith Malinga celebrates the wicket of Ramnaresh Sarwan during the first One Day International between Sri Lanka and West Indies at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) Cricket Ground in Colombo on January 31, 2011. AFP PHOTO/Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI.

It maybe just a glitch in the weather systems, or a Bay of Bengal hangover from late last year, unfortunately, the West Indies are back on the island, and so have the rains reappeared.

Result? Why, it is yet another abandoned match in Sri Lanka involving Darren Sammy’s tourists from the Caribbean. As the weather forecasters are not promising any improvement over the next week, this rescheduled three-match series could go the same way as the Test tour. And what a frustration that was for all of us.

After the initial five match ODI series was abandoned in December because of unprecedented monsoon rains, it had been hoped the skies by now would have cleared.

What did come out of this first 50 overs joust, apart from a skilled maiden limited-overs international century from Adrian Barath, and nifty batting by Ramnaresh Sarwan, is some unremarkable Sri Lanka bowling. It maybe that the pitch was a little flatter than the conditions they have experienced at Premadasa Stadium, Khettarama, during the provincial series. This is when most of the players were involved.

Unfortunately, the coating of rust was just too heavy around the edges of a bowling attack that needs to be a lot sharper when the pre-World Cup practice games start in 10 days.

It is a serious pity that rain wrecked the Sri Lanka response, as it would have given the batsmen far better conditions to those experienced at Khettarama during the provincial slogs. You can guarantee the senior coach, Trevor Bayliss would have wanted his charges to get a good 50 overs of batting under their belt as well, to show how they can at least put a competitive total together. Or in this case hunt down the target and win the game.

Barath made use of some early loose bowling and chaotic fielding efforts and was into the 50s when he was missed in the slips by Mahela Jayawardene. It wasn’t an easy chance and had it been held, would have earned a catch of the day round of applause.

There was a missed stumping chance as well when on 76, with Sri Lanka’s captain Kumar Sangakkara fumbling an effort off the bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan, as the batsman charged the off-spinner. It was in the 30th over and his dismissal at this stage would have relieved some of the pressure on a bowling attack unable to offer a challenge to the batsmen on a pitch that gave little encouragement to the spinners.

Adrian BarathOf course, it is often said, if in jest at times, how the Sri Lanka team examines the way every century or half-century is scored against their bowling. This could be through the prism of “how will it affect us – is it good or bad?” In this case, the century by Barath laid bare the myth that Ajantha Mendis is unplayable. It was as bad as it gets.

There were far too many erratic deliveries and with Muralitharan failing to turn the ball at all most of the time because of the conditions, question of why SSC was selected ahead of the Tamil Union venue Saravanamuttu (Colombo Oval) where bowlers can at least get purchase on the pitch arise.

With SSC being in its typical flatbed state, and Barath and Sarwan batting with style, it has to be admitted with concern, there was a period before the batting powerplay was taken that a 300 plus total was possible. As an example, when Lasith Malinga was brought back for his sixth over of the innings, he looked highly frustrated when an attempted bouncer reached hip-high instead of chest or head and Sarwan pivoted as he executed a hook that flew to the boundary.

For some reason, however, the taking of the batting powerplay acts as a bowler’s talisman. In this case it was taken in the 44th over of the innings when it should have been the 35th after drinks. Only once in recent months, have the batsmen been able to capitalise and that was South Africa in the first ODI of the series against India where AB de Villiers and JP Duminy scored 41 runs in the five overs.

Only the term powerplay seems to indicate unprincipled batting techniques instead of a sensible, measured approach. The result is that Malinga picked up both Sarwan and Barath in a matter of three deliveries with clever bowling and the powerplay immediately lost its momentum.

It is also where Sri Lanka were able to get back into the game as 246 on this pitch is not really challenging. With Malinga and Nuwan Kalusekara tidying up the last overs, it was a comeback that would be as welcomed as it was so unexpected.

Because of a dispute over fees, Taj Television, the visual media arm of Sri Lanka Cricket pulled the plug on the series. It is why the match is not being broadcast internationally; there were complaints about the quality of coverage offered by the local broadcasters. Viewers outside Colombo said they were unaware that rain had arrived during the lunch break. Instead of informing the viewers what was happening, as is the case with international broadcasters, the local TV providers failed to return for updates and reasons why late afternoon, the game was abandoned.

This article first appeared on Trevor Chesterfield’s column on it is republished here with prior permission.

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