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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lankan batsmen chase 388 ! deny Zimbabwe piece of history

After a long tour of India, England landed in Sri Lanka and on a Wednesday, Feb 17, 1982,  when Bob Willis ran his long steps and  bowled to Bandula Warnapura, Sri Lanka became cricket's eighth Test-playing country.  Minutes earlier, Warnapura had become the first Sri Lanka captain to win a toss; minutes later, he was their first batsman to be dismissed when he was taken high in the gully by David Gower off a Willis snorter for 2.  Lot of things happened thereafter too as -  Bandula Warnapura captained  a  rebel Sri Lankan side to South Africa and received a life ban from cricket as a result.  The English Captain  Keith Fletcher never played for England again and was replaced as captain by Bob Willis.

Today,  Rangana Herath was just named Player  of the Series ! -  for a one-match series, and another hero was Player of the match -  Downdegedara Asela Sampath Gunaratne.  History would otherwise have been made ~ Sri Lanka denied Zimbabwe their first Test series away win in 16 years by chasing down a record-breaking 388 to win the one-off Test by four wickets in Colombo.

16 off the last over would be a daunting enough challenge even in a Twenty20 chase. Sixteen an over for the final three overs is something else entirely. And yet in  Feb this year at Simonds Stadium, Geelong, Victoria,  Australia's captain, Aaron Finch, said he felt that while Asela Gunaratne remained at the crease, Sri Lanka still had a chance of achieving their goal, an assessment that turned out to be accurate, to the delight of thousands of Sri Lankan fans at Geelong's Kardinia Oval. Gunaratne took 12 off James Faulkner, then 22 off Moises Henriques, and the 14 that Sri Lanka then needed off the final over from Andrew Tye were completed when Gunaratne crunched the last ball over cover for four. After that innings – it was apparent that he will be featured in IPL and Mumbai Indians picked him for Rs. 30 lakhs !  ~ he is hailed in Lanka today ..

Niroshan Dickwella has played more Tests, but during the 121-run stand that turned the match, it was Asela Gunaratne who found himself constantly pestered for advice. Sri Lanka had been five-down and 185 runs short of their target when the two came together. Dickwella played aggressively through the partnership, and helped ensure some of the pressure Zimbabwe had exerted, was reversed.

Niroshan Dickwella (81) and Asela Gunaratne (80 not out) shared a sixth-wicket century partnership to help Dinesh Chandimal’s side complete the highest fourth-innings chase in Sri Lanka – beating Pakistan’s 382 for three two years ago. It was also the highest successful run chase in Sri Lanka’s Test history, and the fifth highest ever by any nation.

Followers of the game would well remember that great match for India in Apr 1976 at Queens Park Oval,  Port of Spain, Trinidad.  India came to the third Test  after being outplayed in the first match of the four-Test series at Barbados. They had come close to winning the drawn second Test at the Queen's Park Oval, and when the third Test, scheduled to be played in Guyana, was rained off and the venue shifted back to Trinidad, they felt that they were in with a chance. Clive Lloyd believing his pacers set a target of 403, India lost only two wickets - Anshuman Gaekwad and Gavaskar - to the bowlers; the two others, Gundappa Viswanath and Mohinder Amarnath were run-out.  Sunil  Gavaskar and  Mohinder Amarnath put on 108 - patient and studious.  When Gavaskar got out scoring 102,   Viswanath matched his supple grace with the bold outline of Amarnath's strokes in a stand of 159 to carry India to 292 for two by tea. Driven to despair by the failure of his spinners, Lloyd claimed the second new ball. It fared no better than the old, as 37 came from the eight overs shared by Bernard Julien and Michael Holding. Gundappa Viswanath made  his fourth Test century but lost his wicket when there were 70 runs left, Brijesh Patel ahead of Eknath Solkar.  It was a moment to savour as India successfully chased a mammoth score. 

Today there had only been 4 higher targets  successfully chased in Tests. The 388 that Sri Lanka chased down in this match is the highest any team has successfully chased in Asia. The previous highest in Asia was India's chase of 387 against England in Chennai in 2008.  87.3 Overs sent down by Cremer in this match - the most by any Zimbabwe bowler in Tests.

A late bloomer, the Sri Lankan Army man, Asela Gunaratne piled up several impressive seasons for Sri Lanka Army Sports Club before making his international debut at the age of 30 against Zimbabwe in a Test match in 2016. He scored a fifty in the first innings of the first Test and went on to score his maiden Test century in the second match of the same tour.  Earlier this year, Gunaratne scored his maiden ODI century against South Africa at Centurion. His purple patch continued as he hit back-to-back fifties against Australia to ensure the Lankans triumphed in the T20I series against Australia, in Australia.
Today’s match was played at R.Premadasa Stadium, Colombo  named after Former Sri Lanka president Ranasinghe Premadasa.  The stadium was his idea and when finished it was  named Khettarama Stadium as it was adjacent to the Khettarama Temple. The President gave a swampland to build a stadium and in Feb  1986 a huge 14, 000 seater concrete stadium was built. It was only after the assassination of Ranasinghe Premadasa in May 1993, the stadium was renamed after him.

In 1983 WC Group match, England swamped Lanka.  Ashantha de Mel, easily Sri Lanka’s bowler of the tournament, had Chris Tavare caught-behind — though not before he had raced to a 48-ball 19, which was certainly express by his standards. Graeme Fowler (81 not out from 77 balls) and an in-form David Gower (27 not out from 24 balls) went after the bowling, and the target was chased down with more than 35 overs to spare.  But when the awards were presented,  Fowler it was not;  neither did Allott (three for 41), Botham (two for 12), Vic Marks (two for 18), or Cowans (two for 31).  Instead, Willis was called on to receive the award — not for his economic spell of 9-4-9-1   but because of his bowling changes and immaculate field placements.

Years later in June 2001,   the tall West Indian fast bowler Cameron Cuffy, was given the award for a tight spell of bowling in Harare in June 2001. Cuffy delivered his quota unchanged at the start of Zimbabwe's innings, finishing with figures of 10-2-20-0 (and didn't bat or take a catch).

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
18th July 2017.

Pic credit : EspnCricinfo.

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