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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

India scramble home by 2 wickets against determined Sri Lanka: CB ODI#8

India 8/239 [49.1 overs] (Yuvraj Singh 76, M S Dhoni 50 no) defeated Sri Lanka 6/238 [50 overs] (K Sangakkara 128, M Jayawardene 71) by 2 wickets with 5 balls to spare at Adelaide Oval, CB Series #8.

In an excellent, tightly fought match Sri Lanka recovered from early setbacks to post a handy score pursuing which India struggled, but eventually succeeded in overtaking.

Like Sunday, it was hot (max 38 deg C), though with more cloud cover. In other respects the atmosphere was very different. The 6,000 spectators included a far higher proportion of Indian and Sri Lankan followers; the authorities permitted them to bring musical instruments and flags into the ground (a pat on the back to SACA for allowing this). The match was thus played out against a very different aural backdrop: fewer intrusive ads from the big screen, no "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" type chants; but drumming and music from the Indian and Sri Lankan bands.

I recognised a few tunes: the repertoire of the band in the photo above included "Waltzing Matilda", which they played enthusiastically in what I took to be a characteristically Sri Lankan tempo. A refreshing change.

To the cricket. India made one change from Sunday: no, not restoring Virender Sehwag but replacing Sreesanth with Praveen Kumar, ie bowler for bowler.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted. Surprisingly, as he was listed at no 4 on the scoreboard list and hadn't done so on Sunday, Munaf Patel opened the bowling. His first delivery was driven to the boundary by Tillakaratne Dilshan, his fourth edged to the keeper. Enter Kumar Sangakkara. From the outset he played straight which caused grief to his team as, in Munaf's second over, the bowler deflected a drive onto the stumps catching Sanath Jayasuriya run out for a duck.

The onus was now on Sangakkara and captain Mahela Jayawardene to hold the innings together. This they did by batting with few risks, adding 150 at about 4 runs an over, which had me wondering whether they might have moved a little quicker. The Indian attack lacked the bite it had on Sunday (or maybe the batting was better), but still bowled accurately enough to contain, if not to dismiss, Sri Lanka .

Then, just as it looked as if the Lankans would be able to step on the accelerator, Jayawardene was run out in the same way as Jayasuriya, when the bowler (in this instance Kumar) deflected (or touched) another Sangakkara straight drive onto the stumps. Is it time to coin a new term for this? "Sangakkara" sounds too long, "Kumar" too common; what about "Sanga" or "kara"?

3/159 became 4/161 as Chamara Kapugedera was run out, not by the bowler's deflection, but by an excellent return from Rohit Sharma, one of India's new generation of athletic fielders.
Sangakkara was still there, and he proceeded to his century relatively circumspectly before letting himself go. He wilted in the heat (is it harder for batters with all their protective equipment than bowlers in hot weather nowadays ?) before he was caught in the deep off Irfan Pathan from the last ball of the 49th over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the last over, and did a good job in taking Chamara Silva's wicket and restricting SL to 4 runs.

6/238 still didn't look enough, but without Sangakkara's 128/ 155b (12x4) and Jayawardene's 71/99b (4x4, 1x6) contributions the game would probably have been over by the time the lights were turned on.

When India batted, Chaminda Vaas, perhaps by virtue of his seniority, bowled the first over, which was tidy and yielded 2 runs.

Lasith Malinga bowled the next. His first ball was a beauty, pitching in line moving away just enough to beat Sachin Tendulkar's bat and hitting the side of the off stump. Disappointing that Sachin was out for a duck on what will probably be his last appearance for India here, but what a ball!

Robin Uthappa came in next (a wise move given Pathan's failure there in previous games), got off the mark with a two and looked fairly comfortable until he was run out by Jayasuriya in a close third umpire call. 2/33, then 3/35 as Gautam Gambhir was adjudged caught by the keeper from what Umpire Hill adjudged to be a leg glance.

India were in trouble, but Yuvraj Singh batted like a new man, or at least not like the player who had barely troubled the scorers for most of the summer. Rohit Sharma supported him for a while but fell to Murali (as the scoreboard called him) for 24 at 99, after which skipper Dhoni, knowing how important this match was to his team, gritted his teeth as Yuvraj continued his strokeplay.

With all due respect to Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Yuvray's aggressive 76/70b (10x 4, 1x6) was the innings of the match for its power and intensity. Yet it was relatively brief, and when he was fifth out India were only 158 and with a long tail.

Pathan joined Dhoni and demonstrated the wisdom of batting him lower down, at least until with victory in sight he played a crossbat shot to Ishara Ameresinghe and was bowled for 31.

Then India's tail was exposed. The pressure proved too much for Kumar (7/229) and Harbhajan, lbw to Malinga in another brilliant over with only 3 wanted.

But the last over was to be bowled by Fervez Maharoof, the Hobson's choice of the Sri Lankan front line bowlers. He began with a wide (a harsh call by Umpire Hill?) but Dhoni saw his team home next ball with a drive for 2. It also brought up his 50 in a respectable 68b, yet without a boundary.

India won, and Sangakkara was deservedly named player of the match ( a decision with which I agree despite the strength of my recollections of Yuvraj's hitting).

A great game, unfortunately it appears that it will be the last one to be held in Adelaide for at least the immediate future which doesn't involve Australia.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Update 21 February

Came across the ball by ball commentary on the Hindustan Times website. Very detailed (despite not recording the wide called from the penultimate ball of the match) .

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