Clinical Sri Lanka surpass India
Sri Lanka continued their strong showing in the CB series by easily outclassing India in a crucial match at Brisbane and leapfrogged their sub-continental opponents to go into second place. Riding on a strong start by their current skipper and his immediate predecessor, Sri Lanka posted a substantial 289-run score. In reply, India lost their experienced top-order early and fell 51 runs short, the only performances of note coming from Virat Kohli and Irfan Pathan.
On a bouncy wicket, the opening stand was always going to be crucial for India especially in a stiff chase. Gautam Gambhir, who had some success as opener in his last two appearances, vacated the spot for Virender Sehwag. The stand-in skipper for suspended MS Dhoni lasted only two deliveries though. He went after a short and wide one from Lasith Malinga but found the fielder stationed at third man.
Gambhir had to come out to bat only in the first over. With Tendulkar not looking in the best of form, Gambhir was the one who had to hold the chase together. However, Sri Lanka kept chipping away at the wickets to derail the chase well before it had started to gather any momentum.
Nuwan Kalusekara got the ball to move in both directions and had Sachin in all sorts of problems before removing him for 22. It was an uncharacteristic dismissal for Sachin as he was caught in two minds in leaving the ball outside off and eventually deflected it onto his stumps.
Gambhir became Kalusekara’s second victim- caught at gully as he attempted to give the bowler a charge. It was the same old story for India as their top-order failed to contribute in a tough chase and too much was left for the middle-order. At 54 for 3, India’s chances had diminished greatly and only thing that remained was hope.
Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina tried to make a match of it by adding 92-runs for the fourth wicket. Benefiting from three dropped catches, the two kept India in the picture, at least theoretically even as the asking rate climbed gradually.
Raina, given a life when he had made only 4, was edgy throughout his 32-run knock. He fell to a tame dismissal, caught in the covers. Virat Kohli too had two catches dropped-on 14 and 32 respectively- and went on to score 66 but failed to connect an attempted pull properly to be caught at mid-on. Ravindra Jadeja followed soon and Sri Lanka had the end in sights as India slipped to 191 for 6.
Irfan Pathan hit some lusty blows to lend some respectability to the India’s score and more importantly, prevented Sri Lanka from pocketing the bonus point. He was the last man to fall in the 46th over, caught and bowled by Thisara Parera for 47.
Earlier, Sri Lankan middle order capitalized on an excellent start provided by their openers to push the score to 289 for 6. After Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan laid a solid 95-run foundation, Lahiru Thirimanne anchored the second half of the innings and Angelo Mathews provided the finishing touches as an insipid Indian bowling once again failed to make much of an impression.
When Mahela came out to bat with Dilshan after winning the toss, it was nothing less than a gamble for the Sri Lankan skipper. With Kumara Sangakkara slated to bat at number 3, there was the danger of exposing their young middle-order if few wickets went early. However, Mahela dispelled all those notions with a serene batting display against the new balls.
While Dilshan started with his usual combination of swings and misses, Jayawardene seemed in complete control. From the point he pinched a single on the very first ball, it was evident that the stylish right-hander had come out with a clear plan- he played anchor and Dilshan went after the bowling. Even though they pounced on any opportunity to score runs, the good balls were nudged for ones and twos, thereby keeping the score board moving at a healthy rate.
It was only due to an athletic bit of fielding from the stand-in Indian skipper Virendar Sehwag that the partnership was broken in the 19th over as Mahela’s promising knock was cut short on 45. Shortly after, R Ashwin had Dilshan caught behind for 51 and when Sangakkara pulled Umesh Yadav straight to Sachin Tendulkar, Sri Lanka suddenly found themselves in a spot of bother at 124 for 3.
Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal did the necessary repairs with a 71-run stand. Good thing about the steadying partnership was the running between the wickets. With Indian attack not posing any problems, the two had no difficulties in milking the bowling and set the stage for a late charge. Angelo Mathews scored a quick fire 49 off 37 deliveries and Thirimanne hit some eye catching strokes in run-a-ball 62.
In addition to 18 wides, the Indian pacers especially Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar struggled to hit the right length towards the end. Thus, Virender Sehwag was forced to bowl some of his part-timers as India conceded 44 runs in the last four overs. It was where the balance tilted in Sri Lanka’s favour.© eContent.in
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