Thursday 3 July 2008 

Nerveless India Chase Down 309 To Make Asia Cup Final

India earnt themselves an Asia Cup final berth by beating Sri Lanka by six wickets with three overs to spare in the fifth Super Four game of the tournament in Karachi.

Chamara Kapugedera (75) Mahela Jayawardene (50), and Chamara Silva (50) scored half-centuries in Sri Lanka's innings of 308 for seven as Ishant Sharma took two for 55.

But Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 67 while Gautam Gambhir (68) and Suresh Raina (54) made vital contributions as India closed on 309 for four to set up a repeat meeting on Sunday.

Sanath Jayasuriya hit 43 from 37 deliveries as Sri Lanka made light of the early departure of Kumar Sangakkara, caught by Dhoni off of Sharma and helped by some poor fielding from India, Jayasuriya and Jayawardene added 55 for the second wicket before Jayasuriya gloved Sharma to Dhoni.

Jayawardene went on to make his 46th ODI half-century but was out almost immediately after, caught by Gambhir off of spinner Pragyan Ojha, who was once again impressive.

Kapugedera scored his fifth half-century, going on to get three-quarters of the way to a century but Praveen Kumar, who was distinctively average during his bowling spell, had him trapped in front.

Chamara Silva also passed fifty before getting out, run out by RP Singh as India belatedly got their act together in the field, RP Singh taking a fine catch on the boundary to dismiss Tillakaratne Dilshan for 18.

Kaushal Weeraratne (23) was caught by Gambhir off of RP Singh before Sri Lanka passed 300 in grand fashion when Thilan Thushara hit Irfan Pathan for six in the final over before he was run out for 23.

India needed a good start and they got one courtesy of Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, who made 42 from 33 deliveries, which almost mirrored the start Jayasuriya gave Sri Lanka.

Without early wickets, and Sri Lanka's opening bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and Dilhara Fernando were expensive, as was Thushara, pressure was lifted from India and the score had reached 92 in the 12th over when Sehwag chipped Kulasekara to Fernando at fine leg.

Raina joined Gambhir at the crease and two left-handers made their way to half-centuries to continue their excellent form in the competition with Gambhir advancing to 68 before being trapped in front playing across the line to Muttiah Muralitharan.

Raina and Dhoni then took the game away from Sri Lanka with a 99-run partnership for the third wicket.

Combining excellent running between the wickets with severe punishment of anything wide or short, they looked set to bring the game home but were prised apart by a run out, Raina unlucky when his dive lifted his bat from the ground as Sangakkara took the bails off from a Jayasuriya throw.

Dhoni was bowled by Muralitharan, who finished with two for 44, leaving Sri Lanka a small chance to get back into the game but Yuvraj Singh, who won the game with a crunching four through cover, and Rohit Sharma, ensured there was no late slip ups.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat and the two sides will now meet again in Sunday's final, rendering tomorrow's match between Pakistan and Bangladesh is a dead rubber.

John Pennington
© Cricket World 2008