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Razzaq's Ripper dents Sri Lanka
by NT Shiv Kumar
Oct 17, 2006
The Champions Trophy finally got its first exciting game that almost went down to the wire with the two subcontinent teams slugging it out at Jaipur – this time on a surface that looked harder to go the full distance of 100 overs evenly. Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to enact their familiar success script- bat first and post a decent enough total for the spinners to choke the chase under lights.

Choke they did briefly to the Pakistan innings when Murali and Jayasuriya were at their usual wily best but after they finished their spells, Razzaq was served what he relishes the most – medium pace in the slot to make room and smash it in the arc between sight screen and extra cover.

Razzaq strode in when Pakistan needed 54 off 47 balls with Shoaib Malik playing very sensibly but it was a cliffhanger at that stage – Jayewardene missed a trick there by not persisting with Dilshan whose slow trundlers would have bogged Razzaq down. Well, hindsight is always 20:20 but Jayewardene should have known that Razzaq has never done well facing the slow bowlers in a crunch situation – this is what differentiates a great captain from the rest.

Razzaq blasted his way thru to seal it for Pakistan with a long off Six that literally knocked Bob Woolmer and Younis Khan off their seats in jubilation. For all that they have gone thru over the last 2 weeks, this triumph should herald a resurgence of their self-belief and cohesiveness that make them invincible when they start firing.

Earlier in the evening, they did well in recovering from Jayasuriya’s onslaught that threatened to impose a chase of over 300 but a combination of Sri Lankan indiscretion in shot selection and steady bowling from the spinners helped them to restrict the score to 254. For me, the game changing moment was Sangakkara holing his wicket away to long off when he was cruising along so well - his dismissal at the crucial pre-acceleration stage caught Sri Lanka 20-30 runs shy of a match-winning total on this track.

Talking of tracks, Ravi Shastri believes that the upcoming matches should get better with harder surfaces and more runs which means that the dew factor would normalize the challenges of chasing big totals under lights. But going by the match between New Zealand and South Africa on Monday, it seemed even chasing a modest total of 195 could be a deal breaker if it’s a dust bowl like the Brabourne pitch at Mumbai. The Kiwis lost wickets at regular intervals but a gritty and intelligent knock from Fleming gave enough for the bowlers to come to the party with early wickets of Gibbs, Kallis and Boucher to knock the Proteas out of the game.

The Aussies should canter home against the Windies tomorrow while Sri Lanka will regroup to get back to the winning ways against the Kiwis on Friday.

Its early days yet to bet but for all our money’s worth, the four teams for the semis would be Aussies, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan with an Indo-Pak thriller at the semis!

 
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