Slaughter at the “G” - VB Series - Australia v Sri Lanka

Cricket News 21/01/03

Report By Jon Cocks

On the evening of the dead rubber twelfth and final VB Series match, the primary interest was centred on whether Man of the Match Ricky Ponting (106 from 97 balls, with 11 fours and a six) would get his second hundred of the summer – both at the MCG. He achieved the milestone in an unbroken, run-a-ball 178 run partnership with Matt Hayden (80 from 87 balls, with four sixes and a four) that steered Australia to a crushing nine-wicket win with more than fifteen overs to spare.

After two early partnerships of consequence in the afternoon, Sri Lanka squandered a good opening, falling away to a disappointing 8-214 from the fifty overs. Acting captain Marvan Attapattu, standing in for the resting Jayasuriya, had won the toss, electing to bat on a very firm, white wicket that appeared to promise at least 250, but appeared to be a little two-paced, inhibiting fluid strokeplay. For the Sri Lankans, anyway.

Williams and Bracken took the new ball again for Australia and their initial onslaught was less successful than in Adelaide, with Attapattu (26) and Gunewardene (45) playing well, despite some overly-casual running between the wickets, where the extra run on offer was not taken twice in the first few overs.

Playing stylishly, especially square of the wicket, the openers took the score to 64 at five an over, before Andy Bichel (1-33 from ten) replaced Williams and had Attapattu caught by Hogg (3-37 from ten), who took over from Bracken. These two bowlers applied the skids to the Sri Lankan batting, despite Sangakkara (45) on driving Hogg for six in his first over and a difficult chance going down at slip from Gunewardene off Bichel.

Hogg began landing his wrong’un and the occasional flipper and scoring became more and more difficult. In the 24th over, Gunewardene had an unusual let-off. Sangakkara played one away to point and set off. Gunewardene was slow out of the blocks and had given it away metres from safety, when Symonds’ return was with Gilchrist.

However, the keeper had dislodged the off bail in taking the ball. Although he removed the leg bail correctly, he was uncertain as to whether he hadn’t dislodged both bails and uprooted the middle stump, complete with Stumpcam. Third umpire Taufel adjudged in favour of the batsman, at odds with TV evidence that Gilchrist completed a legal run out.

Nevertheless, Hogg removed Gunewardene LBW in his next over, showing the benefits of his extended run in the national team, bowling accurately, with flight and variation. Sangakkara on drove a second six, but Hogg laughed last – Sangakkara, caught by Watson, trying to loft a third six and Jayawardene (0) beaten in flight and stumped.

The emergence of Brad Hogg as a force in One-Day cricket is one ‘up’ side of Shane Warne’s shoulder injury and provides the selectors with a viable alternative, or an additional wrist spinner on slower turning wickets in the forthcoming World Cup. Not only is he a tidy Chinaman bowler, but an excellent fielder, as shown by his runout of Vaas.

Aravinda de Silva (44), in his last innings in Australia, struggled to hit the ball from the square, as Sri Lanka had lost 3-35. The run-rate, mired at around four, dipped further when Williams returned to attack the stumps and cause Arnold (14) to inside edge onto his leg stump. Chaminda Vaas nudged into the on side and loafed down the wicket, only to see Hogg throw down the stumps at the bowler’s end.

Symonds (0-32 from seven) varied his pace and bowled at the stumps and Bracken (1-33 from nine) came around the wicket, with Aravinda holing out to Watson at deep mid wicket before the Sri Lankan flag bearers. Williams (2-57 from ten with five wides) conceded 12 in the final over, but trapped Mubarak LBW with the final ball of a Sri Lankan innings in which just eleven boundaries were hit and four upper order batsmen got good starts, without being able to go on with it.

Adam Gilchrist began the run-chase in typical fashion, cutting and driving to a rapid 26 from 23 before inside-edging Vaas onto his stumps. Ponting emerged, determined to play an innings of substance before the finals, finding a like-minded partner in Hayden, whose recent efforts had been terminated prematurely by injudicious lofted strokeplay.

Vaas and Nissanka were expensive early, so Attapattu introduced Aravinda’s gentle off spinners inside the first ten overs, in order to take the pace off the ball. Ponting almost hit a return catch to him in the tenth over, celebrating this escape with a glorious off drive to the rope. Nissanka returned at the other end and Ponting lashed him imperiously from his pads about twenty rows back into the deep backward square crowd.

Ponting’s innings was studded with boundaries in a wide arc from point to mid wicket, flawless timing and acute placement being the features of his bladework. His numerous ones and twos worked through the field on both sides of the wicket were in contrast to Hayden, whose runs mainly came through the on side. The big Queensland opener was relatively circumspect for the first half of his innings and set on being there at the end.

The hundred came in the 18th over, and Ponting’s fifty came in the next over. Mubarak was the unfortunate bowler to feel the sting of Ponting’s exuberance, as he elegantly drove and stunningly pulled the Sri Lankan for successive boundaries. Attapattu tried to chop and change his off-spin and medium-fast attack to break the momentum, but Hayden took two steps down the pitch and crunched Arnold straight for the six that raised the century partnership. No visiting bowler was spared in the carnage.

Hayden’s fifty came in the 27th over, but in Aravinda’s following over he should have been adjudicated run out at the bowler’s end. Hayden backed up as Aravinda fielded a drive from his bowling, flicked it onto the stumps with the batsman scrambling to regain his ground. Aravinda inquired politely, the only Sri Lankan to show interest, but no referral upstairs was forthcoming. The replay showed he was out by some centimetres.

Not that it mattered – the game was long gone. Sri Lanka’s fortunes were mirrored by the ball glancing off the hand of Vaas onto the bowler’s end stumps a little later, for the bails to remain undisturbed with Ponting out of his ground. The Australian captain smashed a magnificent pull for a boundary and Hayden straight drove another six.

The end came in a real rush, after Ponting advanced steadily to his hundred. The captain’s milestone achieved, Hayden leapt down the wicket and hammered successive balls into the crowd near the sightboard, and Ponting worked three successive twos in the 34th over to hit the winning runs and to lead his team into the finals in style.

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