SPORT

Sri Lanka triumphs over India

COLOMBO, AUG. 1. Sri Lanka defeated India by 25 runs to win the Asia Cup at the Premadasa Stadium on Sunday. Chasing 229 for victory, India finished at 203 for nine. Sachin Tendulkar top-scored for India with 74, while Sri Lankan leg-spinner Upul Chandana claimed three wickets.

Sanjay Rajan adds from Colombo

Atapattu and Sangakkara prop up Sri Lanka

At Chepauk and Eden Gardens in India or the R. Premadasa Stadium here in the Emerald Isle, where the stands are ablaze with passion when the host is a finalist, a momentary silence is deafening.

It was early on Sunday afternoon in the Indian Oil-Asia Cup 2004 day/night title-clash between the Palk Strait neighbours, following what easily was a defining moment of the contest: the exit of Sanath Jayasuriya. The man whom India feared trudged back - leg-before to Irfan Pathan in the seventh over of the innings, the delivery coming into the southpaw and rapping him a trifle high on the pad though.

Deathly silence

And, as Sourav Ganguly & boys rushed to congratulate the Baroda left-armer, the baila-singing Lankan fans lapsed into a deathly silence. But then, however, the party resumed almost instantly for more than anything else the island loves a good game of cricket.

The Indian seamers were warming up to a single stump when Ganguly and Marvan Atapattu walked out to toss, which the latter won. You realised immediately that the Bengal cricketer would field all three left-arm seamers. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was the lone specialist tweaker.

Interestingly though, only Harbhajan was the lone specialist to complete his quota along with part-timers, offie Virender Sehwag and leggie Sachin Tendulkar. This man Ganguly leads by instinct.

Ashish Nehra shared the new-ball with Pathan, the duo focussed on a tight off-stick leash, without giving any width to openers Jayasuriya and the powerful Avishka Gunawardene. On the two occasions they erred Jayasuriya slashed Nehra to the fence and flicked Pathan to the boundary.

Patience has never really been Jayasuriya's virtue. His batting style doesn't permit that. Similar with the burly Gunawardene, who departed the following over, driving away and uppishly to Nehra, straight to Ganguly at cover.

This started the latest Atapattu-Sangakkara essay. The two understand each other very well, having shared a lot of partnerships including that mammoth 400-plus against Zimbabwe in the Bulawayo Test some time ago.

Their 116-run third-wicket stand off 150 deliveries brought the host back into the match (after 30 overs, Lanka was 138 for two).

As the party progressed, Sangakkara (53) judged the ball beautifully, smiled and let go when Pathan probed, but was ruthless on the straying seamers.

Positive batting

Meanwhile, Atapattu (65), positive and powerful, cover-drove, flicked and cut Pathan for boundaries in one over, and as if to say he's not the one to get carried away, stretched and defended the last ball of the over.

Zaheer Khan, replacing Pathan in the attack, had Sangakkara edging to first slip where Laxman dropped a difficult one. This was early in his innings.

The wicketkeeper-bat went on to survive a run-out, courtesy Dravid's ineffective collection of substitute Balaji's throw from short third man. He was finally dismissed bowled, trying to work Sehwag on the leg-side.

Harbhajan, introduced in the 14th over, bowled a tight seven-over first spell; while Sehwag replaced Zaheer in the 23rd. Tendulkar, brought on in the 32nd over, had Jayawardene top-edge his sweep to leg-gully.

And when Atapattu was run-out to a superb throw by Sehwag from short third man to the non-striker's end after cutting Tendulkar, the chances of a Lankan recovery were bleak.

The host finished at 228 for nine in the allotted 50 overs.

But in the stands and on the ground, the party went on.

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