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“Isolated” middle-order bat guides SL to win with first Test ton

Chamara slaps in the face of ex-minister
Rex Clementine reporting from Wellington

Middle order batsman Chamara Silva entertained the Wellington crowd with a thrilling unbeaten 152 to put Sri Lanka in the driving seat of the second Test Match against New Zealand here at the Basin Reserve yesterday.

Thanks to Chamara’s efforts, Sri Lanka made 365 all out in the second innings and set the hosts ‘an improbable’ 504 to win the Test and the series on a ‘difficult wicket.’

A victim of political interference, the 27-year-old Test career once looked to be over when former Sports Minister Johnston Fernando prevented the selectors from giving Chamara his Test debut five years ago. Since then, Silva never got another chance to play a Test and was soon kicked out of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team as well.

He proved his critics wrong yesterday with one of the best ever innings overseas by a Sri Lankan batsman. The knock not only cemented his place in the side, but also put his team in a winning position.

While there have been some remarkable performances earlier too by Sri Lanka greats on foreign conditions, most of them were scored once they had established their places in the team whereas this bloke playing only his second Test, held on a difficult wicket, came up with this splendid effort.

Silva, who made a vital half-century in the first innings, was the hero for the tourists yesterday as he crafted a chanceless 152. Resuming from the overnight 79, Silva together with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene (37) took Sri Lanka’s total pass 250 before completing his maiden Test century with an array of glorious strokes.

From the score of 91, he got to 99 with two fours in successive deliveries. First he cut Shane Bond for four and then drove the speedster for another boundary.

The 90s are referred to as nervous 90s and even the best of players have struggled there, but this rookie showed a fine temperament as he was prepared to get over the ‘supposed hurdle’ showing no fuss.

The most thrilling moment of his career came in the next over when he completed a cheeky single off Chris Martin’s fourth ball and upon reaching the three figures he raised his arms in the direction of the dressing room. It was indeed a real slap on the face of the former Sports Minister, who nearly destroyed the career of a budding cricketer.

Prasanne, meanwhile looked solid adopting an aggressive approach after the second new ball was taken as he pulled the seamers confidently. However, he played one too many shots and was caught at square leg when he mistimed a hook shot off Martin.

Chaminda Vaas finally showed some form with the bat as he hit 47 off 74 balls with six fours. He fell just three short of his 12th Test fifty when he was caught behind off Daniel Vettori.

The left-arm spinner cleaned up the tail when he accounted for Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan in a matter of just four balls as Sri Lanka slumped from 350 for six to 365 all out. The last four wickets fell for the addition of 15 runs and Silva ran out of partners.

Vettori ended up with seven for 130, the best bowing figures in Tests between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The previous best was Martin’s six for 54, last year at the same venue. That was the 14th time Vettori had taken five wickets or more in an innings. He finished the Test with a match bag of ten for 183, the third 10-wicket haul in his career.

In the morning, 40 minutes’ play was lost due to rain and then again play was stopped after lunch for 79 minutes due to bad light. New Zealand were 75 for two at close needing a further 429 to win the Test and the series. In the history of the game, no team has chased such a big target.

What a comeback

In the afternoon, Silva reached his 150 off successive boundaries. First he hit a powerful pull to the midwicket and then cut Martin firmly to the boundary to reach the landmark. If someone had hanged around with him, Silva could have gone onto make a double hundred bringing more humiliation for his detractors. But during his marathon five-and-half-hour knock he amply proved his class.

Silva’s ODI debut was against World Champions Australia in 1999 as a 19-year-old and he proved his potential scoring a half-century on that occasion against bowlers like Shane Warne and Glen McGrath. But the tragedy is that since his debut to date he has played only ten one-day-internationals and it’s just another case in point of a real talent wasted.

His controversial omission from the second Test against Zimbabwe at Kandy in 2001 must have shattered his confidence and it took him quite a while to come out of the raw ordeal. The incident happened when T.B. Kehelgamuwa’s selection committee decided to rest one of the senior players and give the rookie a go. The team’s other senior players went complaining to Minister Fernando and without following any protocols, the Minister ordered the selectors to reinstate the senior player.

The selectors pointed out to the Minister that the team was 1-0 up in the series, the opponents were minnows Zimbabwe and that they had to try out young players for the future, but none of them were given a fair hearing and the minister was adament.

A lot of people felt that Silva had quite a few similarities to his namesake, Aravinda de Silva, the best batsman produced by the country. His bow-legged stance, mannerisms, some of the shots and style suggested that the youngster was copying the great man and he made quite an impact earlier on too.

Finally sanity prevailed as the selectors named him for the New Zealand series and subsequently had the courage to give him another go after he collected a pair in Christchurch. The fact that he was able to bounce back from a bad start tells you the story that he’s got the character to succeed at the top level.

The practice of cricketers running to shallow politicians, no matter how big they are, and those politicos carrying out whatever the players ask for should at least stop now. The only thing that is left to be ruined in the country by the politicians is cricket and let’s hope that the noble sport will keep these corrupt politicians at arm’s length. "Politicians shouldn’t be even allowed to drive down the road where the board of control for cricket is".

Scoreboard

Sri Lanka 1st Innings 268 (K. Sangakkara 156*)

New Zealand 1st Innings 130 (L. Malinga 5-65)

Sri Lanka 2nd Innings

U. Tharanga lbw b Martin 20

S. Jayasuriya ct Fleming b Vettori 31

K. Sangakkara ct Franklin b Bond 08

M. Jayawardene ct Sinclair b Vettori 31

C. Kapugedara b Vettori 27

C. Silva not out 152

P. Jayawardene ct sub (S. Mills) b Martin 37

C. Vaas ct. McCullum b Vettori 47

Farveez Maharoof lbw b Vettori 01

L. Malinga lbw b Vettori 00

M. Muralitharan lbw b Vettori 00

Extras: (lb 7, nb 4) 11

Total all out 365

Overs: 109.3

Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-62, 3-62, 4-100, 5-168, 6-262, 7-350, 8-356, 9-365.

Bowling: Bond 19-3-66-1 (2nb), Martin 23-1-98-2 (2nb), Vettori 43.3-5-130-7, Franklyn 25-8-63-0.

New Zealand 2nd Innings

C. Cumming ct Sangakkara b Muralitharan 20

J. How lbw b Malinga 33

M. Sinclair not out 10

S. Fleming not out 04

Extras: (b 5, nb 3) 08

Total for two wickets 75

Overs: 22

Fall of wickets: 1-56, 2-60.

To bat: Nathan Astle, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, James Franklin, Shane Bond and Chris Martin.

Bowling: Vaas 6-0-28-0, Malinga 6-1-20-0, Maharoof 5-1-17-0 (3nb),Muralitharan 4-2-4-1, Jayasuriya 1-0-1-0.

Toss: Sri Lanka

Umpires: Simon Taufel (Aus) Brian Jerling (RSA)

Match Referee: Javagal Srinath (Ind)

-The Island-

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December 18, 2006 - Posted by | South Asia, Sports, Sports News & Opinion, World News

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