India’s apparently seamless path towards winning the ICC Champions Trophy continued as they made the most of the conditions to thrash Sri Lanka in the second semi-final in Cardiff.
They won an important toss, restricted their familiar foes to 181 for eight as the ball swung dramatically, and then knocked off the runs in just 35 overs to book their place in Sunday’s final.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s day began brightly as he won an important toss under leaden skies that remained in place for much of the day. Kushal Perera rather gave his wicket away, driving loosely at a wide delivery when on four, but the remainder of the Sri Lankan batsmen were victims of some excellent Indian bowling.
Ishant Sharma found bounce to go with the swing and picked up the key wickets of Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara, both caught at slip by Suresh Raina, when they looked like beginning a recovery. Sharma’s spell followed up good opening bursts from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.
Sri Lanka were not helped by a brace of injuries to their first choice batsmen. Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out before the match began, while Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled a muscle while batting and had to retire hurt.
Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews rebuilt the innings following Sangakkara’s departure but it was relatively slow going. They shared 78 in 18 overs, but were claimed by India’s spinners, who provided no respite and found appreciable turn from the damp pitch.
Jayawardene was bowled by one that kept a little low from Ravindra Jadeja, while Ravichandran Ashwin made Mathews the first of three wickets by enticing him into a big shot and having him caught at cover.
Conditions were so favourable to seam bowling, though, that Dhoni even decided to have a bowl. He got through four overs of none-too-shoddy medium-pace at a cost of 17 runs.
There was to be no late onslaught from Sri Lanka towards the end of their innings despite the return of Dilshan and they limped, not unlike their veteran opener, to the end of their 50 overs.
India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were troubled by Nuwan Kulasekara in particular at the start of their run chase, but they rode their luck and set up a successful run chase with a stand of 77. Sharma was finally bowled by Mathews, but Virat Kohli came in and joined Dhawan and the pair took their side to the brink of victory.
Kohli brought up his fifty near the end with a lovely lofted drive that went for six off Jeevan Mendis and finished on 58 off 64 balls as India won with 15 overs of their innings unused.
They will now face England, who enjoyed an equally straightforward win over South Africa yesterday, and who will be hoping for conditions to remain similar to today if they are to have a chance of lifting their first piece of ICC 50-over silverware against an India side that has thus far dominated this competition.
Video courtesy of SNTV
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