Sunday, November 09, 2008

All Stars banking on Jayasuriya fireworks | Hong Kong Sixes

Sri Lankan great faces compatriots in clash of the day

Sri Lanka star Sanath Jayasuriya once played second fiddle to compatriots Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga at the Hong Kong Sixes in the early 1990s but he is expected to hog the limelight at Kowloon Cricket Club this weekend.

Jayasuriya will not be in the colours of his country, but for the All Stars in the US$200,000 tournament.

"I don't remember when exactly I played here. It was a long time ago, in the early days," Jayasuriya said after a short training session yesterday.

Then, he walked in the shadow of De Silva and Ranatunga. But all that has changed, ever since the 1996 World Cup triumph over Australia when Jayasuriya made his mark as the pinch-hitter to transform the nature of one-day cricket.

Now pushing 40, Jayasuirya is also still pushing the boundaries. He was one of the stars in the Indian Premier League for Mumbai and last month spearheaded Sri Lanka to victory over Pakistan in the final of a Twenty20 tournament in Canada.

"I have given up test cricket and only play the short form of the game now. I have no regrets at all and I'm still enjoying myself hugely," Jayasuriya said. "I'm really looking forward to the Sixes."

All Star captain Stephen Fleming, a former New Zealand skipper, is hoping his two teammates from Sri Lanka - fast bowler Chaminda Vaas is also in the side - will lead the way in batting and bowling.

"If they don't bowl like they used to bowl to me, or bat the way they used to bat when I was fielding against them, I will be disappointed," Fleming said. "Sanath Jayasuriya haunted me when I was playing and Chaminda Vaas used to get me out with his eyes shut, so if we don't get wickets and runs, then I'll be upset."

The pair will face their countrymen and defending champions Sri Lanka in a mouthwatering clash this afternoon. "It will be kind of strange playing against my country," Jayasuriya said.

Sri Lanka, led by Indika de Saram, have come back with four players who were part of the Cup-winning team last year. Apart from their skipper, the others are Jeewantha Kulatunga, Kaushalya Weeraratne and Dilhara Lokuhettige.

"We have got a strong squad of all-rounders, five of whom bowl medium-pacers with one off-spinner. These guys are all in good form, having played in a Twenty20 tournament back home recently," said manager Ranil Abeynaike. "This tournament is being shown live in Sri Lanka and the public are expecting the boys to do well again."

The All Stars, Sri Lanka, Australia and hosts Hong Kong are in one group, while the other comprises India, Pakistan, England and South Africa. The top two from each group enter the Cup competition tomorrow. "We are in a tough draw, but I expect us to do very well," said England skipper Dimitri Mascarenhas. "We have a good all round side with a number of young blokes who are all keen to do well."

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