India Claim Ninth Victory In A Row In Clinical Fashion
India 332-5 (Gambhir 150, Dhoni 94, Raina 49no) beat
Sri Lanka 265 (Sangakkara 56, I Pathan 3-58) by 67 runs
4th One Day International, Colombo: India lead series 4-0
Records fell at the R. Premadesa Stadium in Colombo and although Muttiah Muralitharan celebrated his record 503rd ODI wicket, India made it nine victories in a row with a 67-run win over Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI.
Gautam Gambhir's century helped them post 332 for five and they bowled their hosts out for 265 to secure a 4-0 lead in the five-match series. They have, whether by accident or design, found the blueprint for winning in Sri Lanka: win the toss, bat first, pile up 300 then bowl as many spinners as possible to cause a batting implosion.
In pursuit of 333, Sri Lanka started well with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya blazing a trail with a scorching six from Jayasuriya bringing up his team's half-century in the eighth over while Dilshan smashed four fours in quick succession, handing out severe punishment to Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma.
It was the recalled Pathan who broke through, however, getting Jayasuriya caught at short cover by Rohit Sharma off an attempted pull for 27 in 16 balls. Dilshan (38) followed shortly after when an ugly, unnecessary heave offered Yuvraj Singh an easy catch off of Praveen Kumar.
There was then a short delay when Mahendra Singh Dhoni led his players from the field on discovering that some morons in the crowd had been throwing objects towards the playing area but all was eventualy settled and play resumed.
With hindsight, Sri Lanka might have conceded the match there and then as their batting lost their way yet again. Kumar Sangakkara (56) and Mahela Jayawardene (28) made starts and looked good but never batted with the aggression necessary. In the middle of the innings, some 122 balls passed between boundaries.
Pragyan Ojha impressed again with his left-arm spin as Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan all picked up wickets before Irfan Pathan took two in two balls to all but close out the innings with three for 58, his 150th ODI wicket coming when Farveez Maharoof (28) limply chipped him to Rohit Sharma at mid-on.
150 was India's number for the day, Gautam Gambhir having earlier become the first man to post that score in Sri Lanka in an ODI before becoming Muralitharan's landmark wicket when he was caught behind by wicket-keeper Sangakkara to end a stunning innings.
"It's a great achievement," Muralitharan said after the innings. "It's a great honour for me to take (the record in) both forms of the game."
Gambhir and Dhoni (94) added 188 for the third wicket after Sehwag was out for five early and Suresh Raina smashed a late unbeaten 49 to ensure India didn't lose their way despite losing two wickets in two balls to Nuwan Kulasekara (3-63).
Sehwag was well caught by Jayasuriya trying to repeat a driven four down the ground but his demise paved the way for Gambhir and Dhoni, in at number three to further illustrate the flexibility and dynamism of this Indian side, to put Sri Lanka on the back foot.
At first, Sri Lanka bowled tightly, and after the first ten overs India were at 50 for one and after 15, they had made their way to 82 before the onslaught began.
Two days ago, Sri Lanka suffered at the hands of another right-hand-left-hand partnership when Sehwag and Yuvraj took them for 221, and today Gambhir and Dhoni might have had Sri Lankan fielders wondering whether they were playing the same match over in their head.
Gambhir reached his half-century with an imperious six over midwicket off of Angelo Mathews and Dhoni hammered Jayasuriya for a big six straight down the ground as Sri Lanka's outfielding was once again short of world-class.
Dilhara Fernando struggled with ball in hand, thrashed over midwicket by Gambhir, warned by the umpires for running on the pitch and bowling three wides and a no-ball but it was he who brought about Dhoni's demise with a catch at short third man.
The ball before, Mathews had dropped Dhoni as he came steaming in from the cover boundary but Fernando made no mistake much to the relief of bowler Jayasuriya and Mathews.
Kulasekara then had both Yuvraj (5) and Yusuf Pathan (0) bowled with consecutive deliveries but India were not to denied as after Raina survived the hat-trick ball, he went on to hit four fours and a six to close unbeaten on 49 in 37 balls alongside Rohit Sharma, who had four.
Kulasekara later showed his batsmen up by smashing 39 in 22 balls at the death to at least haul Sri Lanka past the 250 mark but this was comprehensively India's day once again and nine in a row means they are entering uncharted territory for an Indian team.
© Cricket World 2009