Lanka avoid whitewash

India’s 68-run loss to Sri Lanka ensured that Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co’s winning streak ended at nine...

Written by G.S. Vivek | Colombo | Published:February 8, 2009 2:33 am

It was inconsequential as far as the series went,but India’s 68-run loss to Sri Lanka,apart from salvaging some pride for the hosts,also ensured that Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co’s winning streak ended at nine,and that they will have to wait longer to get to the No. 1 ranking.

India weren’t complacent,but had a bad day in the field as they decided to dole out an ODI debut to Ravindra Jadeja and hand a recall to Laxmipathy Balaji. Unfortunately for them,Dhoni lost his first toss of the series,allowing the opposition some breathing space as they went about setting a target.

A solid 97 from opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and a quickfire 84 from Kumar Sangakkara took Lanka to a handy 320/8,despite a late wobble that threatened to derail their innings. The new-ball bowlers suffocated the Indian top-order,which failed to break the shackles,and though three batsmen got half-centuries,the middle and lower-order never really looked like winning the match as the visitors folded up for 252 in 48.5 overs.

Early blows

Chasing a big score,India needed a good start from their in-form batsmen,but Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina fell early. Yuvraj Singh walked in with the scoreboard reading 9/2 — which became 52 for three when Gautam Gambhir fell — and looked comfortable as he set about dissecting the Lankan attack. His 73,which included 11 fours and one six,ensured he won the Man of the Series award,but his departure saw the end of the Indian challenge. Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a typically responsible innings,and Ravindra Jadeja justified his selection with an unbeaten 60,but too many wickets fell around them as the Indian innings drifted towards the end.

The Sri Lankan bowlers divided the pie equally to make the heavy contribution of the batsmen a worthwhile effort.

Runs,at last

Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya put together their best foot forward,and the latter was especially brutal against Ishant Sharma,spanking the bowler for five boundaries,until he fell to Irfan Pathan. Dilshan continued to play the anchor,while Sangakkara devised novel ways of countering the plethora of part-time spinners.

Looking to avoid an Indian clean sweep in the series,Sangakkara decided to sweep everything that was pitched up as he raced to 84 off just 70 balls,before top-edging one. The second-wicket partnership had fetched 143 off 136 deliveries,and Lanka were on their way. Dilshan kept punching the ball between cover and point,and looked set for a century when he was tragically run-out three short of a ton.

As Lanka kept delaying the power play,their innings seemed to unravel. Ishant picked up two wickets in the 42nd over as they lost four wickets for two runs. It was Farveez Maharoof who took the total past the 300-run mark,a cameo of 32 that ensured the hard work at the top wasn’t wasted. In the end,the dramatic late-order collapse didn’t matter much,as India’s batting came apart in the first 10 overs of the chase itself.

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