Dhoni Leads India Home In Nail-Biting Finish In Adelaide

Sri Lanka 236-6 (Sangakkara 128, Jayawardene 71) India 237-8 (Yuvraj Singh 76, Dhoni 50no, Amerasinghe 3-50) India won by two wickets in Adelaide India claimed an epic two wicket victory over Sri Lanka after a return to form for Yuvraj Singh (76) and a wonderful half century for captain MS Dhoni guided the Indians home. Ishant Sharma crucially survived two balls from Malinga, allowing Dhoni to retain the strike and seal the game with five balls to spare, taking two to deep cover. Victory seemed a long way off earlier in the Indian innings when they were reduced to 35 for three, but they fought back in magnificent style to claim a tense victory in arguably the best match of the tournament to date. Chasing 239 to win and virtually eliminate Sri Lanka from the series, India got off to the worst possible start, as Sachin Tendulkar was bowled all ends up by Lasith Malinga for nought to leave India two for one in the second over. Robin Uthappa was promoted to bat at number three, and he and Gautam Gamhir were starting to rebuild the Indian innings by taking singles and putting the bad balls away. However, Uthappa was run out by Jayasuriya on the last ball of the tenth over. Gambhir followed Uthappa two overs later caught behind for fifteen and India were reeling at 35 for three, with India desperately needing the out of form Yuvraj to score some runs if they were to have any chance of chasing 239 to win the game. Yuvraj and young Rohit Sharma went about rebuilding India’s innings by keeping the scoreboard ticking over and not looking to take too many risks, Yuvraj was starting to look back to his best as he hit some glorious boundaries all around the wicket and scored his first 30 runs at better than a run a ball. The partnership was really starting to look ominous for the Sri Lankans when Sharma, perhaps anxious to match Yuvraj’s fast scoring rate, was caught on the mid wicket boundary by Chamara Silva when attempting to sweep Muttiah Muralitharan for six, leaving India 99 for four in the 24th over and putting the game back in the balance. The fall of Sharma’s wicket did not seem to deter Yuvraj as he raced to his half century from just 46 balls. Yuvraj and Dhoni were looking to consolidate and build a partnership, as wickets in hand were now the key factor if India were to get over the line. India continued to eat away at their victory target by virtue of some excellent stroke play by Yuvraj as well as positive running between the wickets. With under 100 runs required, there was a real feeling that Dhoni and Yuvraj could finish the game off at an extremely fast pace. Desperate for wickets, Jayawardene brought on his most experienced pace bowler, Chaminda Vaas, who responded by bowling a beauty which went right through Yuvraj’s defences, he was bowled for 76 from 70 balls to leave India 158 for five and once more threw the game wide open. Dhoni found useful support from all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who hit a couple of gorgeous cover drives and certainly seemed happier batting in his regular position at number seven as opposed to number three where he was batting the last couple of games. India continued to edge ever closer to victory, when with just 23 to seal the win, Pathan was bowled by Ishara Amerasinghe for 31, to leave them just 27 balls balls in which to get the runs required for victory. Praveen Kumar made it clear from the first ball he faced that he was going to play his aggressive game regardless of the situation, but this was his downfall as he skied a ball straight to Mahela Jayawardene and left India 229 for seven still needing ten to win from 14 balls. The game was now anybody’s for the taking. Needing three runs to win off the final over of the game, Dhoni smashed Maharoof through the covers for two to bring up his half century and seal the game. Earlier, a spellbinding century from Kumar Sangakkara ensured Sri Lanka recovered from a shaky start to post 238 for six having won the toss. With both teams failing to overhaul fairly modest targets, in their recent matches against Australia, it was no real surprise when Dhoni stated that he would also have batted first had the coin fallen his way. Tillakaratne Dilshan hit the first ball of the match for a glorious boundary through the covers, however just three balls later he appeared to be caught in two minds as to whether to attack or defend, as he edged Munaf Patel to Dhoni for four, to leave his side four for one in the first over. India saw the back of the danger man Sanath Jayasuriya in Patel's next over, the veteran was run out at the non strikers end while backing up to Kumar Sangakkara, Jayasuriya departed for nought and it left Sri Lanka six for two in the third over. The fall of Jayasuriya, brought together the Sri Lankan captain and vice captain Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara. They struggled to gain any momentum against some very accurate fast bowling by the Indian opening bowlers, Ishant Sharma and Patel, as the Sri Lankans found themselves 21 for two after ten overs. Sri Lanka continued to find it hard to accelerate or get on top of the Indian bowling. However Jayawardene and Sangakkara, were quite prepared to work the ball into the gaps and take singles where possible. Sri Lanka were 60 for two after twenty overs as the rebuilding process continued with Sri Lanka desperate to post a score of at least 200 to give themselves any chance in this crucial game. The duo started to raise their intensity as well as their scoring rate, as Sri Lanka’s 100 came up in the 28th over, Sangakkara registered his 43rd ODI 50 from the same delivery, it took him 88 balls and included three well timed boundaries. Jayawardene reached his half century in the very next over and Sri Lanka were now wrestling the initiative away from India with their score at 110 for two after 30 overs and a real platform to get a very competitive score. Sangakkara was given a life shortly after, when he was caught by Robin Uthappa off the bowling of Praveen Kumar only for the umpire to rule that the delivery was a no ball as it was above the batsman’s waist. The partnership was starting to really take the game away from India, when for the second time in the innings, the non striker was run out backing up to Sangakkara, this time is was the captain Jayawardene, run out for 71 it ended a brilliant partnership of 153 between the pair and left Sri Lanka 159 for three in the 38th over. There was more success for India in the next over, a brilliant piece of work by Rohit Sharma saw him run out saw him run out Kapugedera for one and leave Sri Lanka 161 for four. The loss of the two quick wickets did not halt Sangakarras’s progress as he continued to score all around the wicket and rotate the strike he he was given good support by Chamara Silva as Sri Lanka tried to accelerate in the closing overs of their innings. Sangakkara hit a glorious boundary over long on in the 46th over to bring up his seventh ODI century with his side, Sri Lanka were 208 for four at the end of the 46th over with Sangakarra's runs starting to flow fairly easily. It was a superb knock from Sangakarra given Sri Lanka’s start he was finally dismissed in the penultimate over caught by Kumar off the bowling of Irfan Pathan for 128 with his side on 234 for five. Aaron Kumar © Cricket World 2008