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Aravinda hopes for an encore

Nairobi: Aravinda de Silva will take to the field against his favourite World Cup opponents on Monday hoping that lightning strikes twice. The third highest run-scorer in ODI history has yet to make a mark on the 2003 tournament.

But minnows Kenya should offer him the perfect opportunity in their Group B clash — as long as Sri Lanka’s top-order allow him to get to the crease.

In his fifth and last World Cup, the 37-year-old De Silva has only taken guard once in South Africa. He made 12 against New Zealand, even then only getting into the action just before the start of the slog overs, Sanath Jayasuriya (120) and Marvan Atapattu (81 not out) having set up a winning total.

His batting services were not required in the 10-wicket and nine-wicket victories over Bangladesh and Canada. For the rest of the time, De Silva, arguably the slowest mover in world cricket, huffed and puffed about the field as Sri Lanka’s bowlers made hay.

If captain Jayasuriya does decide to shuffle his batting order in Nairobi in an attempt to share around the runs, he could not choose a better man than De Silva to come in at first down.

In 1996, De Silva hit a career-best 145 off 115 balls against the Kenyans in Kandy, including 14 fours and five sixes. Sri Lanka made 398 for five that day, the highest total ever made in a World Cup. That performance gave him one of his four Man-of-the-Match awards in the 1996 event. He completed the set in the final, with a century in Sri Lanka’s defeat of the Australians.

Sri Lanka coach Dav Whatmore, however, suggested there would be no batting experimentation. “It is a game we have to win. We have played pretty well in the last three games, we need to keep the good bits up,” he said. Kenya will remember that day in 1996 in Kandy with some satisfaction themselves, having replied with a respectable 254 for seven, 96 of those runs coming from Steve Tikolo.

The teams also met in 1999, when Sri Lanka won by 45 runs. Again, Kenya batted impressively, making 230 for six against an attack containing . both Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. Maurice Odumbe made 82 that day.

Sri Lanka have won their opening three games to lead group B with 12 points. (Reuters)

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