Rain has final say in Lanka-NZ encounter

Rain has final say in Lanka-NZ encounter

There were few indications of the non-starter when Kumar Sangakkara and Ross Taylor strode out for the toss, and the Kiwi skipper opted to bat first, predictably, upon winning his third successive toss in this competition.

Shortly before the scheduled start at 2.30 pm, gusting winds and foreboding clouds made a combined appearance, sending Anuruddha Polonowita’s ground staff scurrying to cover the square and a majority of the outfield.

A torrential downpour that began around 2.35 pm and lasted for three-quarters of an hour relented just enough for the mopping up operations to begin. The covers had resisted the downpour gamely and a dry outfield meant the prospects of play appeared as bright as the clearing skies when another spell of not so heavy but continuous showers forced umpires Asad Rauf and Tyron Wijewardena to abandon the match without a ball being bowled, at 6.25 pm.

The fourth league tie of the triangular series will now be played on Friday’s reserve day, weather permitting, with a fresh toss and, by extension, fresh playing elevens. Suraj Randiv, however, will not figure in the scheme of things, Sri Lanka Cricket deciding that he must serve his one-match ban in a ‘live’ game and not a washed-out encounter.

Dry belt
Dambulla is recognised as a dry belt, and this is the first time in 40 games that a match has had to be abandoned because of the weather. The rain at this time of the year, locals say, is because of the Perahara festival in nearby Kandy, though the met department had predicted only a 20 percent chance of rain on Thursday.

The outlook isn’t particularly bright for Friday, with a 40 percent chance of precipitation predicted. From the tournament’s perspective, it will be a real shame if there is a repeat of Thursday, because the event is beautifully poised after the first set of matches, each of the three participating teams having picked up one win apiece.

Sri Lanka had surprisingly omitted Thilan Samaraweera and brought Chamara Silva in to the playing eleven in one of three changes to the side that lost to India on Monday. Randiv and Dilhara Fernando made way for Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath as Sri Lanka persisted with their ploy of attacking New Zealand with spin after having tried, unsuccessfully, to use pace as the battering ram against the Indians.

New Zealand welcomed back beefy all-rounder Jacob Oram, totally recovered from a hamstring strain, as they too made three changes from the last match. Also coming in were all-rounder Grant Elliott and reserve opener Peter Ingram, for Tim Southee and the injured Martin Guptill respectively, Oram taking his place at the expense of express left-arm paceman Andy McKay.

Different ploys
In a tournament where the ball has held sway over the bat for the most part, teams have used different ploys to maintain that trend. India have persisted with three seamers and two spinners, while Sri Lanka have alternated between an extra quick against India and the additional tweaker against the Kiwis, not regarded as being in the same bracket as India when it comes to playing the turning ball.

New Zealand have been forced by injuries to shuffle their playing eleven, but theirs is a seam-oriented attack with offie Nathan McCullum providing the variety. An interesting battle of wits and skills has been halted by the elements, but only temporarily, hopefully.

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