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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 13:08 GMT

Sri Lanka find ruthless streak
Paul Grunill
BBC Sport


Canada's Joe Harris with Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya
Beware the Sri Lankan smiles
Sri Lankan cricketers were once renowned for playing the game with a smile on their faces and, to an extent, that still holds true.

But smiles can be deceptive.

One of the highlights of the first week of the World Cup was Canada's shock triumph against Bangladesh.

The North Americans suffered a reality check, however, as they were brushed aside by Sri Lanka after being bowled out for 36 - the lowest total in the history of one-day internationals.

It offered further proof that Sri Lanka are fast becoming the bully boys of world cricket.

Whereas Pakistan let Namibia off the hook after reducing them to 42 for nine, enabling their opponents to double their score before finally succumbing, Sri Lanka showed no mercy.

Prabath Nissanka and Chaminda Vaas took seven wickets with the new ball as Canada's batting fell apart, and they then raced past their meagre target in less than five overs.

Conditions also favoured the Sri Lankan bowlers in their game against Bangladesh with Vaas taking four wickets in his opening over - including a hat-trick.

The scoreboard shows 5-4 after the first over
Vaas' opening over against Bangladesh was deadly

On that occasion Bangladesh managed to eke out a total of 124, but the Canadians could not save themselves from embarrassment.

Sri Lanka have now bowled a side out for less than 80 five times in one-day games, more than any other country.

They first did so in December 1986 when India crumbled to 78 not out in Kanpur with Arjuna Ranatunga - who, a decade later, led Sri Lanka to World Cup glory - taking four wickets.

Of more relevance, however, is that the other four instances have occurred in the last two-and-a-half years, with Vaas usually the chief source of destruction.

He took five for 14 as India were hustled out for 54 in October 2000, and then returned figures of eight for 19 as Zimbabwe fell apart for 38 at the end of 2001.

Vaas contributed only one wicket as Bangladesh were dismissed for 76 last August, but he has been back to his best since the start of the World Cup.

So what is the reason for Sri Lanka's new-found ruthless streak?

According to former batsman Sidath Wettimuny, they want another taste of the success achieved in 1996 when Australia were beaten in the final.

"The stakes are high. The World Cup is a very serious issue for every side," he said.

"The World Cup does bring out the best in the players. Having won one World Cup (in 1996), they know what they are playing for - that is the biggest motivation."

Jayasuriya has been in prolific form of late
Jayasuriya is leading the team by example

The form and confidence of captain Sanath Jaysuriya is another important factor, according to Wettimuny.

"He's the sort of captain who, when he does well (with the bat) he raises his game and thereby lifts the whole team.

"He's in such good form, it's having an effect on all the other players as well."

Sri Lanka are unrecognisable from the side which lost four out of five one-day internationals in South Africa last November and December.

In that series, Vaas managed only five wickets, and Jayasuriya averaged 20 with the bat.

But they have both started the World Cup at the top of their game and although tougher challenges undoubtedly lie ahead, they do not want to slacken off against easier opponents.

It is an approach that could carry them a long way.





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