India Come Out on Top in Close Encounter

Dirin NihalaniContributor IJanuary 31, 2009

MS Dhoni yet again won the toss but this time he decided to bat first which Jayawardene said he would have done as well. This decision was taken considering wicket was easy to bat on and also the new ball bowlers would get more assistance from the pitch in the second innings.

Sri Lanka named an unchanged side from the previous ODI where as India made a couple of changes. Praveen Kumar came in for Munaf Patel who suffered a groin injury and Virender Sehwag came in for Rohit Sharma.

The master and the pupil, Sachin and Sehwag, opened the batting for India against the bowling of Kulasekara and Thushara. The openers started well scoring 11 runs in the first over but just two in the second. For the second game in a row, Tendulkar was wrongly adjudged LBW this time off the bowling off Kulasekara off a ball which even thought it had pitched in line, would have gone on to miss the leg stump.

Out came Sehwag’s Delhi Daredevil opening mate, Gautam Gambhir. These two average 50 whenever they are together in the middle and one would have thought they would have a big partnership on this track too but alas Gambhir fell on 27 edging one behind to sangakkara off Maharoof. Yuvraj came in at India 60/2 needing one of his typical innings.

Yuvraj was just starting to open up when Sehwag fell just three overs later trying to steal a third run and getting run out on 42. Raina and Yuvraj started all over again and started to get comfortable. So well they were set that Yuvraj even smacked Mendis, his nemesis from the series last time around, over long-off for half a dozen.

The runs dried up when Murali and Mendis were bowling in tandem in the middle overs but that changed as soon as Jayawardene replaced Mendis with Dilshan. The batsmen started to open up again when Dilshan got one to bounce a bit more than usual which caught Raina by surprise and he just ended up lobbing the ball up to short extra cover.

Out walked the captain, Dhoni, and back walked Yuvraj to the pavilion for 66 to another wrong LBW decision as he clearly edged the ball before it struck him on the pads. YK Pathan and Dhoni then just took the singles and doubles whenever they could as well as the odd boundary here and there.

Pathan then got run out at the end of the second over of the batting powerplay which turned out to be a big blow for India as they could have used his big hitting in those overs. Soon Dhoni too got out but not if the umpire had his say. The umpire thought he hadn’t nicked a ball behind off his legs but Dhoni walked and so India were in deeper trouble. 

Murali and Maharoof bowled brilliantly to restrict India to just 14 off the five batting powerplay overs.  Praveen Kumar and Zaheer provided a few fireworks towards the end and India finished with 256/9 in their 50 overs scoring just 46 runs in the last 10 overs.

Dilshan and Jayasuriya walked on to the pitch to chase the gettable target 257. Sri Lanka started off just like India, scoring 11 off the first over off Zaheer but just three in the second off Praveen. As India’s thrilling start didn’t last long, neither did Sri Lanka’s.  Dilshan trying to pull a short ball by Zaheer holed out to fine leg and walked back to the pavilion.

Sri Lanka’s Mr. Dependable, Sangakkara joined Jayasuriya out in the middle and both were just about scoring at the required run rate of five and that’s when Jayasuriya chased a short and wide one in Ishant’s first over (second ball) and gave Ojha at third man an easy catch putting India on top. Sangakkara fell chasing a full and even wider delivery than Jayasuriya. Tendulkar took a good a catch at slip off Praveen as Dhoni dived in front of him, and sangakkara too walked back.

This meant Sri Lanka had two new batsmen at the crease in the form of Jayawardene and Kandamby. Even though neither was in form, they stuck it out and scored runs in singles and doubles but the boundaries that were needed were missing. The quartet off Ojha-Pathan-Sehwag-Raina dried up the runs making the batsmen work hard even for their singles and finishing up their overs really quick.

Jayawardene broke the shackles by hitting a six off Raina over midwicket and scoring a fighting and overdue 50, only to hole out to Pathan at extra cover off Ojha. Kandamby was joined in the middle by Kapugedera and they built a steady partnership in the process of which Kandamby crossed the half-century mark.

Speaking of half-centuries, Kapugedera fell just after their partnership had crossed the 50 run mark. Maharoof came out all guns blazing, swinging at almost every delivery as Sri Lanka now required 70 runs off 46 balls with five wickets remaining. This tactic did not help Maharoof last very long and he was bowled by a brilliant yorker on leg stump by Zaheer…Or that’s what everyone thought.

Shockingly, the ball hit the leg stump and moved the bails but not enough to dislodge them which was surprising as the ball crashed into the stumps pretty hard and ricocheted off to the boundary. Maharoof’s luck didn’t last long as just 3 balls later Ishant dismantled his stumps … yes with a yorker.

Sharma also picked up Thushara whilst Murali, Kulasekara and Mendis were run out trying to get singles and hand Kandamby, who finished unbeaten on 93, the strike. Sri Lanka lost the game by just 15 runs requiring 20 off the last over. Ishant picked up the Man of the Match for his four for 57 as he varied his pace and used the slower ball effectively.

So, India go up two-nil in the series with three more games to go meaning sri lanka have to win the next three to win the series whereas India just need one more win from the next three. This was a pretty close game and don’t expect anything else in the next game as India will try to wrap up the series early whereas sri lanka will be desperate for a win to keep the series alive.