Action by the ton lifts veil of mystery

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 1997, 12:00am

Surely, this is not cricket.

A total of 1,489 runs scored in two Test innings including a record 952 and six individual knocks over 100 is the stuff of fantasy.

Sri Lanka, those flamboyant masters of the one-day game, and India are in danger of giving cricket a good name with such massive scoring.

Cricket, and its American cousin baseball, are not every sports fan's idea of a value-for-money day out.

While the aficionados of both games revel in the subtleties and oddball language, there are millions who feel that watching paint dry on Wembley Stadium is a more productive and enjoyable way of passing the day.

The subtleties - the finesse of an opening batsman or tactical savvy of a pitcher - go straight over the head while the oddball language - caught at silly point or stealing a base - confuses the hell out of all but insiders.

So it is that cricket and baseball have huge followings in certain countries but cause barely a ripple of interest in hundreds of others where football and basketball are co-premiers.

Then along come Sri Lanka and India and baseball's Boston Red Sox with something that every fan can relate to - action, and plenty of it.

The sight of the swashbuckling Sanath Jayasuriya slamming 36 boundaries and two sixes on his way to a score of 340 must have been worth a couple of Diego Maradona goals for Argentina in the World Cup.

And Troy O'Leary hitting two homers into the upper deck at Arlington Stadium during the Red Sox thumping 17-1 win over the Texas Rangers surely was the equal of back-to-back slam dunks by Michael Jordan.

Anyone who watched Sri Lanka winning the World Cup one-day title will know that their batsmen do not stand on ceremony. The notion of 'playing themselves in' seems completely foreign and they tend to open up from the very first ball.

This approach has won them one-day games by the score but has yet to pay off in Test matches which stretch over five days. The more established Test nations have been a bit dismissive of the Lankan approach but such is their talent and willingness to go for runs that a big pay-day cannot be far off.

Their total of 952 against India might not have brought them victory, but with guys like Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva and Roshan Mahanama capable of breaking scoring records every time they go into bat the Lankans are certainly a very watchable team, which cannot be said for all Test-playing nations.