Dhawan misses century; Indian bowlers fail to deliver the knockout punch

Fearless yet measured, forceful but refined, Kumar Sangakkara’s century on Friday was the cricketing equivalent of the luscious roshagulla in this part of the world. The zestful holiday crowd here lapped up his 18th century as Sri Lanka tripped India by two wickets in the Asia Cup.

India has much to blame itself, particularly its messy fielding. As the Lankans required one run to win in the last over with two wickets in hand, Thisara Perera’s easy offering was squandered by Shikhar Dhawan at mid-off. That was a summation of India’s day.

Sangakkara, however, was sublime. Besides drilling straight down the ground, his favoured territory, there were the resplendent drives and the simmering cuts. The front foot was often merrily cleared to thwack the ball at will.

Chasing 265, Sri Lanka’s openers, Lahiru Thirimanne and Kusal Perera, were quite the contrasting cohorts, united in their quest for runs. Fortune presented its broadest grin to them; Kusal was reprieved twice and Thirimanne once.

Thirimanne’s rasping drive was almost snatched by an airborne Ravindra Jadeja at covers; throwing himself to his right, he couldn't latch on. Only moments ago was Kusal grassed, when Ajinkya Rahane and Dhawan — running in from point and third-man respectively — collided.

Kusal, on 38, was dropped by Jadeja, making another terrific effort. Their merry-making ended when R. Ashwin — shedding his Sunil Narine impersonation — struck Thirimanne’s pad. He then went on to conjure a beauty to remove Kusal. The parsimonious Jadeja was on a hat-trick after ousting Mahela Jawardene and Dinesh Chandimal.

Costly miss

But the biggest turning point was when Dinesh Karthik missed his swish and fluffed a stumping of Sangakkara, who was on 30 then.

In the afternoon, India’s batting stuck to the blueprint created in the tournament thus far: a conservative, unhurried start followed by enhanced briskness.

The meandering approach initially was also in no small part due to Rohit Sharma's protracted struggle. Uneasy at the top, the batsman appeared to be lugging an invisible burden around. An odd boundary, amidst relentless ball-hogging, only set India back.

Lasith Malinga and Mathews, in contrasting speed-zones, were uniformly accurate. Senanayake was brought on in the sixth over, and by the time off-spinner was into his third over, he trapped Rohit in front.

Kohli’s arrival was just the injection of calm that India needed. The steely efficiency of his flicks in front of square was matched by a feel for strike-rotation.

Unusually subtle knock

Dhawan profited from his presence, unleashing his own signature, bicep-vein bulging square drives. His innings was unusually subtle, however, as the rousing swagger was kept to a bare minimum. During the course of their 97-run partnership, there appeared to be no problems with nursing ambitions of a 280-plus total.

But Ajantha Mendis, who replaced Suranga Lakmal in the team, hadn’t been factored in. He deployed his much talked-about, potent weapon, the carrom ball, against Kohli, the spiteful turn from middle connecting with the off-stump.

The Rahane-Dhawan combine was quite adequate as well until the former was dismissed in the Batting PowerPlay. The Mumbai batsman’s dance-down-and-loft took the edge and went to short third man.

In the 40th over, Mendis pocketed two more wickets with carrom balls: first, Dhawan was bemused by a quicker one, and then Karthik played an ugly flat-batted pull after hitting a boundary the previous ball.

In a little while, Rayudu was out lobbing Chaturanga de Silva while Stuart Binny was out leg-before to Senanayake. India’s sights were perched at low-hanging fruits now.

Jadeja opted to scrap it out, and allying with him in this endeavour were Ashwin and Shami. After a wobbly middle-order show, India managed to end well with 40 runs in five overs.

Scoreboard:

India: Rohit lbw b Senanayake 13 (28b, 1x4), S. Dhawan b Mendis 94 (114b, 7x4, 1x6), V. Kohli b Mendis 48 (51b, 4x4, 1x6), A. Rahane c Thirimanne b Senanayake 22 (27b, 1x4), A. Rayudu c K. Perera b Chaturanga 18 (23b, 1x4), D. Karthik c Chaturanga b Mendis 4 (3b, 1x4), R. Jadeja (not out) 22 (27b, 1x6), S. Binny lbw b Senanayake 0 (4b), R. Ashwin b Malinga 18 (16b, 2x4), Bhuvneshwar st. Sangakkara b Mendis 0 (0b), M. Shami (not out) 14 (7b, 2x6); Extras (b-4, lb-1, w-6): 11; Total (for nine wkts. in 50 overs): 264.

Fall of wickets: 1-33 (Rohit), 2-130 (Kohli), 3-175 (Rahane), 4-196 (Dhawan), 5-200 (Karthik), 6-214 (Rayudu), 7-215 (Binny), 8-245 (Ashwin), 9-247 (Bhuvneshwar).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 10-0-58-1, Mathews 3.2-1-9-0, Senanayake 10-0-41-3, T. Perera 6.4-0-40-0, Mendis 10-0-60-4, Chaturanga 10-0-51-1.

Sri Lanka: K. Perera c Karthik b Ashwin 64 (81b, 4x4, 2x6), L. Thirimanne lbw b Ashwin 38 (55b, 4x4, 1x6), K. Sangakkara c Ashwin b Shami 103 (84b, 12x4, 1x6) , M. Jayawardene c Rohit b Jadeja 9 (12b, 1x4), D. Chandimal b Jadeja 0 (1b), A. Mathews lbw b Shami 6 (18b), S. Senanayake c Rohit b Shami 12 (13b, 2x4), Chaturanga de Silva lbw b Jadeja 9 (12b, 1x4), T. Perera (not out) 11 (18b), A. Mendis (not out) 5 (2b, 1x4); Extras (lb-7, w-1) 8; Total (for eight wkts. in 49.2 overs): 265.

Fall of wickets: 1-80 (Thirimanne), 2-134 (Perera), 3-148 (Jayawardene), 4-148 (Chandimal), 5-165 (Mathews), 6-183 (Senanayake), 7-216 (Chaturanga), 8-258 (Sangakkara).

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 9.2-1-45-0, Shami 10-0-81-3, Ashwin 10-0-42-2, Binny 4-0-22-0, Jadeja 10-1-30-3, Rayudu 1-0-9-0, Rohit 5-0-29-0.

Man-of-the-Match: K. Sangakkara.

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