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India clinches a thriller; goes 2-0 up

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HIT MAN: Ishant Sharma, who accounted for four wickets in India’s second win, celebrates a dismissal with Suresh Raina.
HIT MAN: Ishant Sharma, who accounted for four wickets in India’s second win, celebrates a dismissal with Suresh Raina.

S. Dinakar

Ishant strikes crucial blows; Sehwag, Yuvraj chip in with the bat

Colombo: Ishant Sharma sent down a delicious mix of searing off-cutters, scorching yorkers, well-disguised slower ones and the odd straighter ball to swing the match India’s way at the crunch at the Premadasa Stadium on Saturday.

The lanky paceman was the man of the moment and the Man-of-the-Match. And India, defending 256, clinched a humdinger by 15 runs with four deliveries remaining in a game of varying shades.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men lead the five-match Wealthsurance series 2-0.

Like Ishant, Thilana Kandamby displayed heart and commitment. The left-hander remained unbeaten on 93 (129b, 9x4) in an innings of crisp strokeplay and much composure.

The Lankan batting Power Play — taken in the 42nd over — fetched the side 48 runs and the host seemed back in the hunt after the asking rate had climbed. The Indians, crucially, kept picking up wickets.

Moment of concern

There was also a moment of concern during the chase when Ishant complained to the umpires about being struck by an object while fielding in the out-field. The incident held up play.

The contest also witnessed a spirit-lifting display of sportsman spirit when Dhoni edged a wide one down the leg-side from Farveez Maharoof and ‘walked.’ Dhoni also marshalled the proceedings well when the Lankans chased under the lights.

The host lost three wickets in quick time —Tillakaratne Dilshan’s miscuing a pull off Zaheer, Sanath Jayasuriya top-edging a cut off a short delivery from Ishant, and Kumara Sangakkara chasing a full length away swinger from Praveen Kumar.

With his pronounced wrist action, Praveen was hitting the seam and getting the ball to skid off the pitch. Given the new ball, Praveen conceded just 18 runs in his first spell of eight overs and there was some assistance for him due to the evening dew.

Having lost three wickets for 36 runs, Sri Lanka badly required a partnership. Out-of-form skipper Mahela Jayawardene and the left-handed Kandamby re-built the innings.

Revival

Jayawardene’s silken touch was not evident but then he put a price on his wicket. Kandamby, a compact left-hander, flicked well off his pads and drove pleasingly through the off-side. The batsman was fortunate, though, when his edge off Ishant grazed a leaping Tendulkar’s fingers at slip. The pair added 100 runs.

Jayawardene (52, 75b, 1x4, 1x6) cover-drove Ishant and used his feet against left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. But then, when Jayawardene made room to crash Ojha through the off-side he was picked up by Yusuf Pathan at extra cover. The young spinner had held his nerve.

Once again, Sri Lanka rallied around Kandamby. Chamara Kapugedera blitzed to a 29-ball 31 before stepping down to Ishant and edging a full length delivery moving away. Ishant then yorked Farveez Maharoof and consumed Thilan Thushara with his change of pace.

Sehwag on song

Earlier, a fit-again Virender Sehwag delighted after Dhoni opted to bat. While his bat speed has always been his strength, it is the quickness with which Sehwag picks the length that enables him to get away with limited footwork.

Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara pitched short and suffered against Sehwag. While Sehwag cut loose, Gautam Gambhir, batting at No. 3, was fluent.

In a contentious verdict, Tendulkar was adjudged leg-before to Kulasekara while attempting to work a delivery to the on-side.

Gambhir (27 off 28 balls) was snared outside the off-stump by Maharoof at the fag end of the first Power Play. Maharoof operated to a fuller length, varied his pace, and cramped the batsmen for room.

India then lost Sehwag (42, 26b, 7x4) after a well-orchestrated sequence of fielding that began by the hard-running Muralitharan relaying the ball to Jayasuriya from wide long-on.

Yuvraj (66, 88b, 7x4, 1x6) faced searching questions against spin and was lucky at the start when he edged Ajantha Mendis between the ’keeper and the slip.

Soon Yuvraj settled down to handle spin with improved footwork. He played Mendis forward and in front of his pads. Since Mendis bowls wicket-to-wicket to a good length, the left-handed Yuvraj played him straight. In a stirring moment, he struck Mendis for a six over long-off.

The otherwise busy Suresh Raina could not consolidate on the start, undone by the unexpected bounce from part-time spinner Dilshan.

Unlucky Yuvraj

Soon, Yuvraj was, wrongly, given leg-before to Kulasekara even though he had nicked the ball onto his pads.

India managed a creditable 93 in the middle-overs but the final surge did not arrive. Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan fell when they were threatening to launch into the bowling.

India’s batting Power Play, taken between overs 41 and 45, yielded only 14 runs. Maharoof varied his pace and was tight. Muralitharan, who bowled beautifully even if the World ODI record eluded him, sent down an astonishing maiden of immaculate control in the last over of the Power Play.

Despite some handy blows from Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar, the last 10 overs fetched just 46 runs. But then, these proved to be valuable.

SCOREBOARD

India: V. Sehwag (run out) 42, S.Tendulkar lbw b Kulasekara 6, G.Gambhir c Sangakkara b Maharoof27, Yuvraj lbw b Kulasekara 66, S.Raina c Kapugedera b Dilshan 29,M.S. Dhoni c Sangakkara b Maharoof23, Y. Pathan (run out) 21, Zaheer cDilshan b Mendis 17, Praveen Kumarc Jayawardene b Mendis 15, P. Ojhanot out) 0; Extras (b-1, nb-1, w-8): 10;Total (for nine wkts. in 50 overs): 256.Fall of wickets: 1-13 (Tendulkar),2-62 (Gambhir), 3-83 (Sehwag), 4-168Raina), 5-180 (Yuvraj), 6-219 (Yusuf),7-223 (Dhoni), 8-256 (Praveen), 9-256Zaheer).Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 9-0-61-2, Thushara 8-0-59-0, Maharoof10-0-40-2, Mendis 10-0-44-2, Muralitharan10-1-32-0, Dilshan 3-0-19-1.Sri Lanka: T. Dilshan c Sharma bZaheer 8, S. Jayasuriya c Ojha b Ishant17, K. Sangakkara c Tendulkar bPraveen 4, M. Jayawardene c Pathanb Ojha 52, T. Kandamby (not out) 93,C. Kapugedera c Dhoni b Ishant 31, F.Maharoof b Ishant 7, T. Thushara cPathan b Ishant 7, M. Muralitharan(run out) 3, N. Kulasekara (run out) 1,A. Mendis (run out) 0; Extras (b-4, lb-4,w-10): 18; Total (in 49.2 overs): 241Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Dilshan), 2-33 (Jayasuriya), 3-36 (Sangakkara),4-136 (Jayawardene), 5-187 (Kapugedera),6-206 (Maharoof), 7-228(Thushara), 8-236 (Muralitharan), 9-237 (Kulasekara).India bowling: Zaheer 10-0-56-1,Praveen 8.2-1-22-1, Ishant 10-1-57-4,Ojha 7-0-39-1, Pathan 5-0-21-0, Sehwag5-0-19-0, Raina 4-0-19-0.

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