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Zaheer-inspired Indians draw level

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IN FULL CRY: Zaheer Khan's fiery opening spell rocked the Sri Lankan top order. PHOTO: AP
IN FULL CRY: Zaheer Khan's fiery opening spell rocked the Sri Lankan top order. PHOTO: AP

Vijay Parthasarathy

  • Harbhajan foxes Dilshan again with a doosra
  • Ganguly's run of form continues

    Margao: Zaheer Khan bowled this dew-laden Wednesday morning with the kind of aggression and precision that he has always promised but rarely summoned in recent years, as India beat Sri Lanka by five wickets to level the series 1-1 with one match to go.

    The barrel-chested left-arm Mumbai seamer felled the top order, and then returned to complete his first limited overs five-wicket haul as Sri Lanka was restricted to 230 for eight.

    Triple strike

    Sri Lanka never recovered from the triple strike at the start that left it struggling at six for three. Sanath Jayasuriya was neutralised with a ball that climbed on him; Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara fell with their feet seemingly in shackles.

    Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene briefly threatened to arrest the slide, as did Russell Arnold and Tillekeratne Dilshan subsequently. But Harbhajan Singh maintained a tight line in the middle overs, and foxed Dilshan again with a doosra.

    With 260, Sri Lanka might have had something to bowl at, but Zaheer funnelled yorkers at the death something he has not done in a while and that was that.

    Action aplenty

    The Indian innings began in eventful fashion. Farveez Mahroof bowled four consecutive wides and then conceded two boundaries to Virender Sehwag; but the out-of-form batsman, back as opener in this match, was dismissed soon, fending away a well-directed bouncer.

    Considering the form he has displayed recently, it wasn't a bad idea to send Sachin Tendulkar in at No. 3. But he was bowled off the inside edge, trying to impose himself on the off-side field without adjusting his feet.

    The wicket was a bit slow but it wasn't as if the ball stopped on Yuvraj Singh when he tried to play the ball off his hips, only to loop it up close to mid-on. Still, this was an encouraging innings. He consumed only 31 balls for his 21, ran some quick singles and didn't drag the run-rate down.

    What India managed better than its opponent was, to force the pace inside the first ten overs despite the loss of early wickets. Sourav Ganguly returned from South Africa with a firmer grasp of the larger perspective; the gritty Bengali has, against the odds, re-established himself as a first choice opener in one-dayers.

    On Wednesday he combined grace with restraint, slicing whenever the opportunity presented itself through point and cover. Although he made only 48, with the odd inside edge screaming past leg stump, crucially Ganguly held the first portion of the innings together.

    In Rajkot, Rahul Dravid had spoken ruefully of the need for starts to be converted, and here, coming in a couple of spots lower than usual, at the fall of Yuvraj's wicket, he set about proving his point. He shared a two-paced century partnership (133 that came in just 139 balls) with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has, over the past year, curbed his instinct for the all-out assault and matured into a dependable lower-middle order bat. Dhoni compensated for the error in judgement he made in the last match, by timing his aggression better.

    With just under 100 runs to get, Dravid crashed three successive boundaries off Nuwan Kulasekara, the second and third bisecting sweeper and third-man, and from then onward India maintained its grip.

    SCOREBOARD

    Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga lbw b Zaheer 1, S. Jayasuriya c Ganguly b Zaheer 2, M. Jayawardene lbw b Harbhajan 30, K. Sangakkara b Zaheer 0, M. Atapattu c Tendulkar b Munaf 42, T. Dilshan c Dhoni b Harbhajan 42, R. Arnold (not out) 66, F. Maharoof c Agarkar b Zaheer 14, M. Bandara lbw b Zaheer 2, N. Kulasekera (not out) 9; Extras (b-4, lb-3, w-11, nb-4): 22. Total (for eight wkts., in 50 overs) 230.

    PP 1: 1-10, PP2: 11-15, PP3: 16-20.

    Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-5, 3-6, 4-82, 5-91, 6-180, 7-196, 8-204.

    India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-42-5, Agarkar 10-2-40-0, Munaf 10-2-41-1, Harbhajan 10-0-37-2, Tendulkar 4-0-33-0, Sehwag 6-0-30-0.

    India: S. Ganguly lbw b Bandara 48, V. Sehwag c Dilshan b Fernando 12, S. Tendulkar b Kulasekera 1, Yuvraj c Kulasekera b Fernando 21, R. Dravid (run out) 66, M.S. Dhoni (not out) 67, D. Karthik (not out) 4; Extras (lb-1, w-10, nb-3) 14. Total (for five wkts., in 46.3 overs) 233.

    PP 1: 1-10, PP2: 11-15, PP3: 16-20.

    Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-35, 3-83, 4-94, 5-227.

    Sri Lanka bowling: Maharoof 8-0-47-0, Fernando 10-1-43-2, Kulasekera 8.3-0-46-1, Bandara 10-0-46-1, Jayasuriya 7-0-34-0, Dilshan 3-0-16-0.

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