Thursday, September 18, 2008

India completes Revenge

his year, the two side have seen themselves in the same field on numerous occasions. It all started in Australia in the tri-nations trophy, where ultimately, India prevailed over Sri Lanka. Then, it was the Asia Cup, where Jayawardene’s excellence in captaincy and Mendis’ mysteriousness helped Sri Lanka defeat India for the title.

Now, the two teams faced off in Sri Lanka. India was bolstered by the presence of the ODI captain, Dhoni and Sri Lanka welcomed their star legend Jayasurya into the format he still plays as good as ever. After the hosts won the test series 2-1 in emphatic fashion, the ODI series was bound to be interesting.

The turning tracks of Dambulla were welcoming both the sides, laden with quality spinners. In the first game, SL skittled India for a paltry total and chased it down quite easily. It looked like Sri Lanka had complete control over the game and that Indian team now lacked something. Both spinners were having a good time. But, in the game, India did the very same to Sri Lanka, though the chasing seemed a bit shaky. The toss was becoming an important factor. Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar were in goor form and did most of the damage.

Now, tied 1-1, the series moved to the Premadasa stadium, Colombo. Three day-night encounters to be played. Toss was even more important now. The ball swings under the light in these conditions in the two-paced pitch. Dhoni was lucky with the toss in the third game, and decided to bat first. The young opener, Kohli played a calm role at the top of the order. The middle order in the able presence of strokeplayer Raina and depemdable captain, Dhoni chugged along well and put up a sensible much needed partnership. Both were fluent against the spinners. Mendis was going at almost run-a-ball and picked a couple of wickets. Murali was treated with caution by Dhoni and Raina. After Raina's departure due to an unnecessary run-out, Rohit struck good form at the right time. Himself along with the captain raised a half century partnership in good time. the Lankan bowlers did well to prevent India from reaching a tall score. Tushara and Vaas bowled well to make sure the target seemed reachable. Once the Lankans stepped in to bat under the lights, the Indian pacers made use of the swinging conditions to make the ball to all the talkings. Four of the top five were in the pavilion before the end of 10 overs and Jayawardene was standing fort with Dilshan who was looking to open up. Just after drinks break, Munaf seperated Dilshan from Jayawardene. Munaf maintained good line and length outside the off of the right hander. Later in the innings, Tushara and Jayawardene had a partnership going on well and Sri Lanka seemed to be coming back into the match. The merciless Zack returned to remove Tushara and Sri Lanka were done in for 204. Jayawardene scored a beautiful 94, though in vain. It was one of the best innings of the series.

The heavens opened up the day the fourth match was to be played, but thankfully things were calm on the reserve day. Dhoni, lucky again with the toss. Yet again, Kohli started the innings well whereas his opening partner Gambhir fell soon and Yuvi scored a duck, caught at slips, to give Vaas his 400th victim, which had been eluding him for almost a week. Raina and Kohli continued to keep the run rate going. The boundaries were hard to come by, thanks to tight line and length by the Lankan bowlers. But, there weren't many "surprise deliveries" to trouble the batsmen. Kohli was consumed soon after he compiled his 50, when he tried to drive Thushara, but played on to the stumps. Dhoni and Raina paired up once again to blunt the Sri Lankan bowling. The spinners were ineffective. And the two went on to put up around 140 runs for the fourth wicket, when Thushara struck twice to remove both of them in two overs. then, Mendis removed Rohit and the last 5 wickets fell for a paltry 15 runs. Tushara picked his first 5-for, his second best performance was a 2 wicket haul! Chasing a target of almost 260, under the lights was always going to be tough. But, the care-free legendary opener, Sanath never looked at all those words. He started the lankan innings in a jiffy and took a liking against the bowling of Praveen Kumar, wo had to be replaced after his four overs, when Sanath unleashed his strokes-of-fury. His partner just watched....just watched....just watched. After half an hour, he was removed by Munaf. He didn't score in the 18 balls he faced till then! Soon, run rate slowed down. Sangakkara chopped on to the stumps and after compiling a quick fire 60, Sanath was removed by Harbhajan. The middle order did little to help the cause and soon, the Lankans were staring down the barrel....errr...down the series. A valiant 40 by the emerging all-rounder Tushara was a good phase for the Lankans before the end drew close. Zaheer Khan took care of Tushara's cameo to give India its maiden ODI series victory in the Emerald Isles.

When all was lost in the series, Jayawardene won the toss in the last match, in which the SL side was playing to salvage some pride. Powered by Udawatte, Warnapura and Mubarak's steady innings and later by Tushara's blistering show, Sri Lanka put up a decent 227. Finally the Lankan bowlers got to bowl under the lights, and they did it quite beautifully. Kulasekara and Mendis did most of the damage to skittle India and win by a massive margin. Apart from Kohli, nobody was playing around well for a considerable length of time. Kulasekara ripped apart the top order just in time for Fernando and mendis to cleaan up the tail. The rain-break after an hour into the second innings helped the Lankan seamers even better.

India, came back well after the loss in the test series to win the one day series, their first in Sri Lanka, with a game to spare! Captain Dhoni was named the man-of the-series for his consistant performance with the bat. No, India gears up to host Australia in autumn. Oh boy! i'm waiting for it!

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