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The Barbados Nation England one up
Tony Cozier - 14 May 1999

London - The seventh World Cup was launched at crickets most famous ground yesterday on the type of damp, showery early spring day on which English cricketers are raised.

Those carrying their countrys prayers and hopes put the familiar conditions, and the toss, to best use with a comprehensive victory, by eight wickets with 5.1 overs in hand, over the outclassed defending champions Sri Lanka.

Their fleet of six bowlers of medium-pace and above, all well versed in the art of seam and swing, harrassed the impatient Sri Lankan batsmen and bowled them out for 204 with an over and two balls of their allocated 50 still due.

In none of their seven wins on the way to their outstanding triumph in India and Pakistan in 1996 were they dismissed so cheaply.

By the time England set out after the target that would earn them a psychologically critical victory, and two points, the rain clouds that flitted menacingly across the sky throughout Sri Lankas effort had disappeared. They batted almost entirely in bright, late afternoon sunlight and captain Alec Stewart, with 88 from 146 balls, and Graeme Hick, 73 off 88 balls, settled the outcome with a second-wicket partnership of 125.

Like some of the outfield fireworks that failed to ignite to climax the brief opening ceremony, the Sri Lankans were damp squids compared to the bright sparks that so fired the imagination of the cricket world in the last tournament.

There are seven survivors among their much hailed and feted heroes then and they have shown increasing signs of decline. This was the 16th defeat in their last 21 One-Day Internationals.

Only Romesh Kaluwitherana, the ebullient little wicket-keeper, recreated the spirit of 96 with 57 off 66 balls with five fours. But, instead of opening the innings as he had done with such spectacular success the last time with the left-handed Sanath Jayasuriya, he was sent at No. 7.

By then, the damage had been done and his patnership of 84 with his combative captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, could not build a challenging total.

The foundations of the innings were undermined principally by the tall, left-arm Alan Mullally, who finished with four wickets for 37 from his 10 overs.

Coming on first change after Jayasuriya and the right-hand Roshan Mahanama had taken advantage of a nervy opening spell by the medium-paced Ian Austin to add 42 for the first wicket, Mullally, generating pace and bounce, despatched both openers and Aravinda deSilva as well in the space of nine overs.

It was a very handy trio, representing a combined total of nearly 650 One-Day Internationals, over 18 000 runs and 21 hundreds.

As Austin accounted for Marvan Attapattu for three and the similarly medium-paced Mark Ealham dismissed the left-handed Hashan Tillekeratne for nought at the opposite end, 42 without loss was transformed into 65 for five and Stewart became bold enough to set three slips and a forward short-leg.

Atapattu, Jayasuriya and deSilva all edged into the slips, their technique faulty as the white ball moved and bounced off the pitch.

England off and running in World Cup

London - A long-overdue captains innings of 88 by Alec Stewart steered England to a comfortable eight-wicket victory over defending champions Sri Lanka yesterday as the 1999 World Cup got off to a rainy start.

With Graeme Hick contributing an unbeaten 73 and finishing the match with a six, England cruised to victory at Lords with 19 balls to spare, to leave the Sri Lankans worrying about the strong possibility of an early trip home.

England left-arm fast bowler Alan Mullally grabbed four vital wickets as the home team restricted the defending titlists to 204 all out after sending them in.

It was also a personal and grudge victory for Stewart over his Sri Lankan counterpart Arjuna Ranatunga after trading insults on and off the field in recent matches.

This morning, favourites South Africa take on India and Zimbabwe face Kenya.

Source: The Barbados Nation
Editorial comments can be sent to The Barbados Nation at nationnews@sunbeach.net