Wednesday, 15 January 2003  
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Lankans well in the hunt, face depleted Aussies

Elmo Rodrigopulle reporting from Australia....

It was another stellar performance that enabled Sri Lanka to dump England in Victoria Bitter one-day triangular series match and be on course for a fling in the best of three finals to be worked off later this month. Sri Lanka are now two points behind England with 12 points from 5 games. England have 14 points from 6 games with Australia heading the table with 22 points from 5 games.

Sri Lanka can be second to Australia in the points table if it beats Australia in Brisbane tomorrow. A game that Sri Lanka must win is against England at Adelaide on Friday to be in the finals.

Sri Lanka who have now found their true form must guard against complacency. They must not take the remaining games easy. They must remember that a game is not won or lost till the final ball is bowled. It was the humiliation in Adelaide where they were skittled out for a beggarly 65 that made them open their eyes and realise the mess that they were in. Thankfully they have turned things around and if they maintain the good work, there is the possibility that they may win this tournament for the first time.

The Sri Lankans with their attacking and aggressive style of play have the knack of introducing new innovations to this game. To their credit lies the concept of going for the maximum runs in the first 15 overs. Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana gave life to that concept.

The latest concept is to fix the opponents with high-class spin. When the 'cowboy game' first came into being, teams based their attack on seam, with spin being a forgotten art. The Lankans have now proved that spin bowling too is important to the game.

They have so far heaped humiliation on their opponents and had them in a flat spin with top class spin. The Gabba wicket is also spin friendly after early life and should help the Lankan spinners. Once again winning toss will be crucial for Sri Lanka.

Skipper Jayasuriya is not only happy with his form, but is delighted the way his troops have put their shoulder to the wheel and pushed for victory.

"I am happy that my striking form has helped to raise our levels allround. I am praying that my good form will stay in the future games. I am determined and no matter what will play the game the way I know it best and that is to hit every ball, because it is there to be hit. In the first three games, I was a bit apprehensive. To hit or not was the dilemma I faced. I was determined to hit myself out of the rut that I had fallen into. And thankfully it worked, first against the Aussies and then against England. I am confident that my good form will last", said Jayasuriya.

Jayasuriya must be hitching to wrap up the Sydney wicket which gave him two centuries and take it with him. In blasting two centuries in two games, Jayasuriya chalked up his 15th one day hundred. His bowling too has been spot on and early and vital wickets have come his way.

Aravinda de Silva like good wine seems to be mellowing with age. Against England he showed that age is no barrier, with a high-class allround act. Jayasuriya has given him all the confidence and encouragement which has inspired him to perform. That he did not win the man-of-the-match award after his intelligent half century and 4 for 30 was just one of those things. To him the team's success is the thing.Hashan Tillekeratne seems to be accustoming himself well to the one-drop slot. His job is to keep one end closed and see that no wickets are lost. His stand of 144 with his skipper after losing Atapattu for no score was a class act.

Now that the Lankans are on a roll, they have a good chance of winning against a depleted Australian side at the Gabba tomorrow.

Sri Lanka will play the same winning combination. For the game against England they had to bring in Charitha Buddhika for Pulasthi Gunaratne who had damaged a ligament in his knee, according to manager Jayasekera. Gunaratne has been sent back to recover and be fit for the World Cup beginning in South Africa early next month.

The kangaroos who seemed to have peaked too early, are now in Struggling Street and are injury hit and are not the awesome side that they were. They feel the absence of Glen McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and the latest victim is Andy Bichel. Without those four frontliners the Aussie attack lacks sting and the Lankan batsmen are in for a lot of runs.

Australia have called up Brad Williams and Nathan Bracken for the game against Sri Lanka. Both pacemen played against Sri Lanka in the game at Adelaide where the Lankans were shot out for 65 and had two wickets each. If McGrath is not available Australia will go in with an inexperienced pace attack in years.

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