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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 15:11 GMT
Jayasuriya to the rescue
Sanath Jayasuriya send a delivery down
Jayasuriya bowled Australia over with a superb display

Gasping for air, Sri Lanka's ailing cricket team were in desperate need of resuscitation at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Winless after three games in the VB Series and coming off two embarrasing losses in one day to Australia A, they hobbled into the path of the undefeated Aussies.

Another defeat would have virtually sealed their fate in the series, to say nothing of their morale ahead of the World Cup

But enter the talismanic figure of skipper Sanath Jaysuriya to turn things around and send the blood-thirsty locals home unfulfilled.

The one-day career of Sanath Jayasuriya
Matches: 282
Runs: 8360
Highest score: 189
Average: 31.67
Wickets: 232
Best: 6-29 v Eng in '93
Average: 35.69
Catches: 94

The role of match-winner in the Sri Lanka side is invariably reserved for Muttiah Muralitharan.

But not even the return of the magical off-spinner could steal the limelight from Jayasuriya, who reminded us all of his rare ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck in both innings.

Jayasuriya, like any enigmatic sportsman, has his fair share of off days - but in Sydney he had an unqualified belter.

The game was over as a contest when Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu, whose century was his third in 13 innings, put on 237 for the first wicket.


A depleted Australia attack was to the liking of both, but Jayasuriya was much the enforcer with a typically brazen display.

It arrested a long-run of outs against Australia that had seen 28 innings and 13 years pass without a century.

Seventy-two of his 122 runs came without the need to run as Lee, Bichel and Watson rued the afflictions that sidelined McGrath, Gillespie and Warne.

If it wasn't already self-evident, Jayasuriya's salvo proved that Australia are indeed a vulnerable unit without their champion attack.

Sri Lanka team-mates celebrate
Is it dangerous to write Sri Lanka off for the World Cup?

A gala day for the Sri Lanka skipper was iced with a signature display of searching spin that yielded four wickets for 39 runs.

It would have been five or six but for a couple of jaw-droppingly perplexing lbw decisions from Russel Tiffin.

But that would not matter a jot to Jayasuriya or the victorious Sri Lankans, who have been relieved of the pressure that was beginning to show.

It claimed wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana, who cited excessive internal demands for the poor form prior to Christmas that saw him sent home and left out of the World Cup squad.

But things are a lot rosier in the Sri Lanka camp now, and it seems those who have written them off as World Cup pretenders might have to think again.

On their day the 1996 tournament winners are more than capable of beating any side in the world - witness another recent hammering of the Aussies in last September's Champions Trophy.

And all-comers should be very wary indeed if Jayasuriya turns up in the kind of form that left the reigning champions obliterated in his wake.

England take on Australia and Sri Lanka


Group matches

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