Gambhir (102) shows the way before Raina and Pathan seal the issue

India ended Sri Lanka’s near-decade-long run of not losing after posting a 250 plus score at the R.Premadasa with some level headed batting on the part of Gautam Gambhir (102), and Suresh Raina (65 not out). Set to score 287, India reached there with two balls to spare, and five wickets intact.

India has gone 2-1 up in the five match series.

Sehwag (3) thought it fit to swing Thisara Perera over the tall Senanayake at cover, and ended up giving him regulation, overhead catching practice. Sehwag has had a poor run since the world cup, and, along with Rohit Sharma, add to the burden of the rest of the batsmen.

Virat Kohli (38) and Gautam Gambhir – the pair that took away the world cup from Sri Lanka – raised visions of carrying on in the same fashion. For more than an hour they went about the job of steadying the innings, adding 105 for the second wicket. Batting looked easy during that period. The desire to force the pace of scoring consumed Kohli, who looked to punch Rangana Herath off the back foot. He ended up offering a return catch.

Gambhir continued the journey in the company of captain M.S.Dhoni (31), and added 67 for the third wicket. Just when it looked like that India were again cruising along, Mahela turned to Malinga, who had an indifferent opening spell, landed one of his famous yorkers right on target. Dhoni’s bat did not come down quickly enough to squeeze it out. Then came Rohit Sharma. He could possibly consider himself unfortunate to be given out leg before to Malinga, but that became his duck number 3 in six straight innings.

Gambhir got out in the only way he can be out when he is stroking the ball so well – a run out. He called for single and set off, and took on Udana. But he possibly forgot that all Sri Lankans are streets ahead of India in fielding, and he was caught short of his crease, for the 14th time in his career.

Earlier, two partnerships lifted Sri Lanka from the depths of despair in the third one-day game against India. At close of innings, Sri Lanka had set 287 for India to win the game under the R.Premadasa lights.

The man who has consistently refused to get out cheaply in the past few months, Kumar Sangakkara (73), and the most reliable batsman on Sri Lankan pitches, Mahela Jayawardene (65), put together a fine 121 run partnership, at almost run a ball, to lift Sri Lanka from a precarious 20 for 3 to a respectable total in the third one-day at R.Premadasa here. Then, Anjelo Mathews (71 n.o.) and Jeevan Mendis (45 n.o.) added 104 runs in 12 overs, to close at 286 for 5.

Choosing to bat first, Sri Lanka was 20 for 3 in 5.3 overs. Zaheer Khan, India’s most successful bowler in day-night ODIs, removed both openers in quick time. Dilshan (9) was unlucky – he blocked the ball and moved ahead, wanting to steal a single. He did not realise that the ball had bounced right infront of his feet, and was journeying towards the stumps. By the time he turned around, he ended up being the helpless witness from a distance – and watched with horror as the ball hit the wickets. Thankfully, there were no more bizarre dismissals in the innings.

Tharanga (8) was a man in a hurry. He wanted to score of every ball, and soon chased a Zaheer delivery that moved away into the waiting hands of Indian skipper Dhoni. Zaheer’s first spell read 5-0-16-2; and suddenly it seemed as if the batting paradise had changed its mind even as the Sri Lankan innings began. But the sensible batting of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, and the controlled assault of Anjelo Mathews, and Jeevan Mendis, saved the team the blushes.

There has been a great deal of debate in the media and elsewhere on Dinesh Chandimal (0), who still is riding on past glory. Lahiru Thirimanne is certainly a better bet at the same slot, given that Chandimal has had a horror of a series so far, scoring a total of 19 runs in three one dayers against India. That makes him Sri Lanka’s Rohit Sharma. He came, and went, this time trapped by Irfan Pathan in front.

That brought Sri Lankan skipper Mahela and Sangakkara – the two who have scored 20,000 runs between them - together. They did not take chances, rotated the strike and went about rebuilding the innings in true workman-style fashion. In the process, they notched up Sri Lanka’s highest fourth wicket partnership against India, and by the time Sangakkara departed, chopping to the hands of Virat Kohli at point with the score reading 182, he had steadied the side.

India was over the bowling time limit by 23 minutes. Such transgressions are not pardoned and ICC has rules governing the delays. M.S.Dhoni will be very lucky if he gets away without a suspension.

Scoreboard:

Sri Lanka batting: U.Tharanga c Dhoni b Khan 8 (20 b, 1x4), T.M.Dilshan b Khan 9 (7 b), K. Sangakkara c Kohli b Dinda 73 (95 b, 5x4), D.Chandimal lbw Pathan 0 (3 b), M. Jayawardene lbw Rahul Sharma 65 (79 b, 5x4), A.Mathews (not out) 71 (5x4, 1x6), J.Mendis (not out) 45 (3x4, 1x6). Extras (b-2, lb-8, w-9, nb-1) 20. Total: (for 5 wickets, in 50 overs) 286.

Fall of Wickets: 1-9 (Dilshan), 2-19 (Tharanga), 3-20 (Chandimal), 4-141 (Jayawardene), 5-182 (Sangakkara).

India bowling: Khan 10-0-39-2 (3w), Pathan 10-0-59-1 (1nb,3 w), Dinda 10-0-76-1, Rahul Sharma 8-0-45-1, Ashwin 10-0-50-0 (1w), Sehwag 1-0-3-0, Rohit Sharma 1-0-4-0

India batting: G.Gambhir run out 102 (101b, 10x4), V.Sehwag c sub (Senanayake) b Perera 3 (6 b), V.Kohli c & b Herath 38 (65b, 2x4), M.S.Dhoni b Malinga 31 (49 b, 1x4), Rohit Sharma lbw Malinga 0 (1b), S.Raina (not out) 65 (45 b, 6x4, 1x6) I.Pathan (not out) 34 (31 b, 3x4) Extras (lb 11, w4) 15. Total: (for 5 wickets in 49. overs) 288.

Fall of Wickets: 1-8 (Sehwag), 2-113 (Kohli), 3-180 (Dhoni), 4- 180 (Rohit Sharma), 5-196 (Gambhir).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 10-0-60-2, Perera 9-0-57-1, Udana 6-0-42-0 (4w), Mathews 8.4-0-49-0, Herath 9-0-36-1, Dilshan 3-0-14-0, Mendis 4-0-19-0.

Man-of-the-Match: S. Raina.

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