Jayasuriya’s century goes in vain

SOLID KNOCK: Gautam Gambhir, who benefited from an early reprieve, made it count, going on to lay the base for the Indian chase.

SOLID KNOCK: Gautam Gambhir, who benefited from an early reprieve, made it count, going on to lay the base for the Indian chase.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: AP

S. Dinakar

Dhoni and Sharma build on the platform provided by Gambhir and Raina

Dambulla: You are never too old to dance. At 39, Sanath Jayasuriya waltzed to the rhythm of a band playing vibrant music from the stands. His strokeplay synchronising with the beating of the drums, the marauder from Matara rollicked to a 114-ball 107 in a Man-of-the-Match display here on Wednesday.

But then, despite becoming the oldest batsman to notch up an ODI hundred — Jayasuriya, at 39 years and 212 days, bettered Geoff Boycott’s effort at 39 and 51 days — this sunshine cricketer finished on the losing side.

India, without the influential Virender Sehwag nursing an injury, successfully chased 247 to clinch the first ODI of the five-match Wealthsurance Cup by six wickets at the quaint Rangiri Stadium.

Well-paced innings

The surface lacked in pace but the Indians paced the innings well after Gautam Gambhir (62) and Suresh Raina (54) laid the platform. It was in this department — the pacing of the innings — that the Lankans were found wanting.

In fact, the match changed shades between the 39th and the 43rd over of the Sri Lankan innings after the host opted for the batting Power Play. At that point, Jayasuriya was still a clear and present danger for the Indians.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni responded to the Sri Lankan ploy by bringing on his premier pacemen, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. Zaheer snaffled Jayasuriya up with a canny change of pace and line and Sri Lanka managed just 28 in the final Power Play. Despite a hectic 27-ball 35 from Farvez Maharoof, the host finished at least 25 runs short.

Power Play crucial

The third Power Play marked the turning point of the duel. After Dhoni, the captain, had excelled, Dhoni, the batsman (61 not out, 65b, 5x4), assumed centre-stage in the final stretch of the pursuit. His bludgeoned straight-drives scorched the turf. This was power play in the Power Play overs, taken by India in the 43rd over.

The smooth-stroking Rohit Sharma caressed spin sensation Ajantha Mendis through the covers. With the field in, the Lankans had little chance.

The early stages of the Indian innings were rather dramatic. Left-armer Thilan Thushara bowled zestfully but was fortunate in winning a leg-before verdict against Sachin Tendulkar; the ball had pitched outside leg-stump. Then, replays from behind the bowler showed Nuwan Kulasekara had at least two fingers under the ball as he plucked a diving return catch. The benefit of doubt, though, was given to Gambhir by the third umpire.

Both Raina, by Tillakaratne Dilshan at point, and Gambhir, by a leaping Mahela Jayawardene at slip, were reprieved in the early stages. They made the Lankans pay for the lapses.

Gambhir walked down the wicket to unsettle the pacemen. Raina, another left-hander, was poised and balanced whether driving through the gaps or lofting into the empty spaces. The two raised 113 for the second wicket.

Trump-cards handled

Importantly, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis were handled well. The Indian batsmen played the two straighter rather than squarer, milking the spinners, running well and launching into the occasional big hit.

Crucially, the Indian innings did not lose momentum in the middle-overs. Gambhir (62, 68b, 5x4), eventually, turned too ambitious against Muralitharan to perish at the cover fence. Raina (54, 71b, 3x4, 1x6) ran himself out after he was sent back while attempting a second run.

The Lankans might have scented an opportunity after Yuvraj Singh was held in the deep off Maharoof but Dhoni and Rohit breezed home.

Defying age

Earlier, Jayasuriya held centre-stage. The left-hander — Jayasuriya went past the 13,000-run mark in the ODIs during his effort — continues to defy age. He remains lithe and sinewy; he still runs like a cat. And he can still pull off remarkable strokes with his eye and reflexes. Few batsmen in world cricket require lesser room to essay horizontal bat strokes on either side of the wicket; Jayasuriya’s powerful wrists and strong shoulders enable him to launch into fierce short-arm jabs on either side.

On a hot and humid day, Jayasuriya (107, 114b, 10x4, 1x6) required regular intake of fluid. There was never a drop in his levels of intensity though.

Poor start

India, predictably, inserted Sri Lanka and celebrated in the opening over with the in-form Tillakaratne Dilshan running to his doom.

While Zaheer Khan was on the ball straightaway, Munaf Patel struggled with his length and direction against the left-handed Jayasuriya. The punishing southpaw creamed Munaf through covers and pulled him with panache.

While the accurate Zaheer stemmed the flow of runs from one end, Munaf released pressure from the other. It is the creation of stress from both ends — this happens when Zaheer and Ishant bowl in tandem — that produces wickets.

Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha sent down a steady spell and Sangakkara (44, 86b, 2x4) struggled to force the pace.

Eventually, the left-hander gave Ojha the charge, found the bowler pitching short, and holed out.

When Jayasuriya stepped down to Ojha, the ball thudded against the sight-screen. Jayasuriya prospered but the batting around him was not inspiring.

India was not complaining.

scoreboardSri Lanka: T. Dilshan (run out) 0, S.Jayasuriya c Munaf b Zaheer 107, K.Sangakkara c Raina b Ojha 44, S.Kandamby c Zaheer b Ishant 17, F.Maharoof b Ishant 35, M. Jayawardenec Rohit b Ishant 11, C. Kapugedera(run out) 15, T. Thushara (not out)12, N. Kulasekara (not out) 0; Extras:(w-3, nb-2) 5; Total: (for seven wkts in50 overs) 246.

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Dilshan), 2-118 (Sangakkara), 3-169 (Kandamby),4-171 (Jayasuriya), 5-204 (Jayawardene),6-222 (Maharoof), 7-245(Kapugedera).

India bowling: Zaheer 10-2-40-1,Munaf 5-0-32-0, Ishant 10-1-52-3, Ojha10-0-52-1, Yusuf 7-0-32-0, Raina4-0-16-0, Rohit 4-1-22-0.

India: G. Gambhir c Kandamby bMuralitharan 62, S. Tendulkar lbw bThushara 5, S. Raina (run out) 54,Yuvraj c Muralitharan b Maharoof 23,M.S. Dhoni (not out) 61, R. Sharma(not out) 25; Extras: (lb-8, w-8, nb-1)17; Total: (for four wkts in 48.1 overs)247.

Fall of wickets: 1-13 (Tendulkar),2-126 (Gambhir), 3-137 (Raina), 4-181 (Yuvraj).

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 7-0-32-0, Thushara 8-0-44-1, Maharoof8-0-35-1, Mendis 10-0-47-0, Muralitharan10-0-52-1, Dilshan 5.1-0-29-0.

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