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India vs Sri Lanka: a spectator's account

By "Roving" Eye

Another match at Wankhede Stadium in Bombay. Marine Drive wore a familiar look. A mile-long queue of people waiting to get into the stadium, standing in the hot sun, wearing jeans. Bombay security at its best. With metal detectors and efficient frisking, all the "unallowed" items that the people had tried to smuggle into the stadium in vain were lying on the ground: water bottles, binoculars, posters for 4s and 6s, lighters, match boxes, cameras, transistors, even food! Yes, this was very familiar.

By the time my friend and I got into the stadium, the toss was over, our seats were taken and there was a terrific din all around. Finding a place right down, we sat and began to enjoy the fun. Slogans like "India-a-a, India!", "Jeetenge jeetenge, India jeetenge!" and "Sacheen, Sachin!" were in full swing. And yet hardly anyone know who had won the toss and who was batting first.

Finally two light blue specks with bats were seen entering the ground. The stadium erupted! "Sacheen, Sachin!" Now they knew that India were batting first. As Chaminda Vaas marked his run-up and prepared the bowl his first delivery to Saurav Ganguly, the crowd started again, "Ganguly, Ganguly" which was abruptly changed to "Ganguly hai hai, boo boo" as he got out first ball. "Oh well," I thought, "The match has begun!"

The match turned against India right from the word go. After Ganguly went Tendulkar, playing a premature shot even before he had gauged the bounce of the wicket. Mr. Consistent, Rahul Dravid played in his usual steady manner but then it was time for Kambli to trudge back to the dressing room. Another rash shot. In came the Jadugar Jadeja and like the Titan Cup final against South Africa, he seemed to have found his run-making touch again. Bombay seems to be his favourite ground... Notching up a good partnership with Dravid, things were a bit under control for India now. Another 50 by Dravid and now it was his turn to depart. Bowled by Muralitharan.

In came Robin Singh, the bits and pieces player. Booed at every time he played a defensive shot, I guess he realised that this was enough. As the closing stages of India's innings appeared, he batted freely, dispatching anything near his legs with a swing! A heart stopping moment for him and the 40,000 spectators when he was bowled off a no-ball. Stepping back jauntily to his crease, he continued batting. At the end, India had reached 225 at the 50 over mark and we braced ourselves for a Sri Lankan blast!

A mad scramble to the Pepsi counters in the lunch break, petty fights and near stampedes were all that the whole of the stadium seemed to be doing during the 20 minute break. Finally everyone was settled in and the second innings of the match began. First ball from Prasad to Jayasuriya: short ball, square cut for a 4. "Uh oh," I thought, "If Jayasuriya doesn't get out for a duck, he doesn't get out at all!" And from then on, the Jayasuriya rampage began. The only saving face for the Indians was that they got Kaluwitharane out in the second over but that didn't seem to make any difference to Atapattu and Jayasuriya who batted and batted and shared a century stand for the 2nd wicket.

By the time Atapattu was out, the match was well out of India's hands. Another saving grace for them was that they got the dangerous Aravinda de Silva out for a duck but how much harm can that do to a team that can bat till No. 9 and with only a few runs more to win? As the match progressed, Jayasuriya blazed his way to an unbeaten century and just as the match was in its closing stages he reached another landmark, 151 not out. The first Sri Lankan to do so.

The result of the match: Sri Lanka won by 5 wickets. Another comprehensive victory for them. Man of the Match: Sanath Jayasuriya, of course. Next two matches of the Independence Cup held great importance because the winners of those two matches would reach the finals. At the end of it all, the two neighbours of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, play two or three cricket matches against each other to celebrate 50 years of Indian independence.....

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