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The Electronic Telegraph India v Sri Lanka, Group A
Charles Randall - 26 May 1999

Ganguly and Dravid run riot as India press claims

India (373-6) bt Sri Lanka (216) by 157 runs

India, after their sleepy start in England, will have to be taken seriously as World Cup candidates after a succulent batting display here yesterday.

Sourav Ganguly's superb 183 off 158 balls, five runs short of Gary Kirsten's individual World Cup batting record, completely shredded the Sri Lankan bowling, and his stand of 318 with Rahul Dravid eclipsed the previous best partnership for any wicket in all one-day cricket.

Dravid raced to a second consecutive hundred to follow the destruction of Kenya at Bristol on Sunday, rarely needing to abandon his textbook leanings during his 145, which lasted a mere 129 balls.

India moved on confidently towards their final game against England at Edgbaston on Saturday with a chance of overtaking their hosts as runners-up in Group A. That was the heartening situation for Mohammad Azharuddin, who had been suffering more abuse as captain from an impatient public and media than he could remember.

This part of Somerset enjoyed a compelling cricket occasion yesterday: the smell of samosas, the pitter-patter of the bhangara drum and the hundreds of 'jeetna hai' hats among the crowd - 'we will win' in Hindi - hijacked the day for India, and Ganguly's seven sixes rather rubbed it in from a Sri Lankan point of view.

Defeat for Sri Lanka, the champions, more or less ended their chances of progressing. If their bowling relied too heavily on the craft of Muttiah Muralitharan, this seemed to prove it.

Sri Lanka's top-order batting had been failing consistently, but there was nothing they could do about yesterday's target beyond salvaging some pride and attempting to avoid a run-rate debacle.

The stroke-play of Dravid and Ganguly was wristy and orthodox as a stream of boundaries scudded across a slick outfield. Only later did the batting take on an agricultural look to pepper the short-drive boundaries, the final 10 overs producing an avalanche of 128 runs.

The crowd behaviour proved to be restrained by Subcontinent standards, just the carnival atmosphere the organisers had been hoping for. The only pitch invasion was the final celebratory one, and the players seemed to escape unscathed.

Whether the presence in combat dress of the Royal Marines, a breed of smiling super-stewards, had anything to do with the general behaviour was hard to judge. One half-expected a tank regiment to be lurking around the corner.

In the morning Sri Lanka's seam bowlers erred in length and wasted the new ball. Chaminda Vaas struck with the fifth delivery, squeezing one through Sadagopan Ramesh's defence, but Dravid punched away a feast of loose stuff.

The left-handed Ganguly was left behind by his partner for a while, until he began to let the bat flow through the line. One driven six soared over the pavilion, another disappeared into the River Tone and two balls were lost in the St James' graveyard beyond long-on.

After the 45-over second-wicket stand ended, Dravid needlessly taking on Muralitharan's throw at long-off, Ganguly heaved away until holing out with 17 fours and those seven sixes under his belt.

The one-sided nature of the contest hardly seemed to matter after batting of such quality and adventure. A shell-shocked Sri Lanka dropped three catches of no real importance in the game's context and were relieved that their record World Cup total of 398, set against Kenya three years ago, remained intact.

Of little consequence was the early run-out of Sanath Jayasuriya, surprised by Javagal Srinath's alert pick-up and throw off his own bowling. The left-hander's consistent failures have become one of the saddest features of the tournament.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk