Feroz Khan/Zeenews Sports Bureau
Brisbane: Sri Lanka defeated India in the Brisbane ODI by 51 runs to claim important points with a game to spare as they moved to the second spot in the points table.
Batting first Sri Lanka posted 289/6, their highest total at Gabba, replying to which Indian batsmen could muster only 238 runs.
Failure of top order
The top order of Indian batting failed to give a proper start to the innings as their captain Virender Sehwag (0) played a casual shot getting out in a similar manner as in the previous game against Sri Lanka in the first over of the innings.
Sachin Tendulkar again got off to a promising start only to be dismissed in yet another awkward manner.
On 22, Tendulkar looked in fine touch scoring run a ball but a sudden change of decision cost him his wicket. A wide delivery from Kulasekara and Sachin backed out in the last moment from playing it but not before getting a bottom edge that crashed on to his stumps.
Gautam Gambhir also looked solid in his innings of 29 but fell victim to some intelligent captaincy from Mahela Jayawardene. He was the second victim of Kulasekera as he steered one towards gully region where Perera took a good diving catch.
Kohli and Raina to the rescue
Three early setbacks had India on the backfoot but Kohli and Raina stitched an important stand of 92 runs before Raina (32) departed.
Both of them played a measured knock as was evident from the number of boundaries they hit between them (3 in total) during their stay on the crease. However, they were let off on three occasions (twice Kohli and once Raina) by the otherwise sharp Sri Lankan fielders.
After the departure of Raina, it was upto Kohli to don the role of a finisher in the absence of MS Dhoni, who had to sit out due to a 1-match ban.
He however gave in to the temptation of accelerating the run rate when the batting powerplay was taken in the 35th over. A mistimed pull ended into the safe hands of Perera at mid on as Kohli (66) became the third victim of Kulasekera.
Pathan’s late blaze
With Kohli's wicket went away any hope of an Indian victory but for Irfan Pathan who played an entertaining knock of 47 (34b, 7X4). All he needed was a stable partner capable of rotating the strike but Parthiv Patel (4) R Ashwin (5) and R Vinay (0) were in no mood to stay back. By the 46th over, Pathan too lost his patience whacking Perera’s full toss delivery back to him. He took a blinder to end Indian struggle at 238 runs.
Lankan set the pace
Indians bowled poorly in the death overs leaking 91 runs as Sehwag decided to bowl Raina and Kohli for the final two overs of the Lankan innings, clearly unhappy with his frontline bowlers.
Sri Lankan batting has looked more solid and reliable since Mahela Jayawardene decided to open along with big hitting Dilshan. At Brisbane on Tuesday the pair put up the highest first wicket partnership of the series. Always in search for runs, Mahela shimmied down the track quite often, lofting clueless Indian bowlers for couple and boundaries, collecting runs at a brisk pace. So was the case with his opening partner Dilshan. He managed a maximum off Umesh Yadav after top edging one towards third man region.
Unlike on the previous occasions when Indian bowlers have made early breakthroughs, on Tuesday they had to wait till the 19th over when a brilliant effort in the field saw stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag holding on to a blinder at mid wicket. By the time Jayawardene departed, Sri Lanka had scored 95 runs and lost only one batsman.
Dilshan continued in the same vein completing his half century but could only add a single to his fifty as he was caught behind when R Ashwin’s delivery bounced off the pitch a bit more than anticipated. Bowlers quickly wrested back the advantage from the Lankan team as Kumar Sangakkara pulled Umesh Yadav towards fine leg where Tendulkar took a neat catch to halt his innings early. In the space of eight overs, they lost three quick wickets.
This brought two youngsters Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal at crease with a responsibility to rebuild after the mid-inning crisis. The duo started off steadily, first stemming the flow of wicket and simultaneously wearing down the Indian bowlers who looked to attack after the late breach. They maintained a steady run rate of over four before a brilliant yorker from Irfan Pathan crashed on the leg stumps of Chandimal to end the crucial stand at 71.
It was an allround effort from the Lankan players as they were first helped to big total courtesy half-centuries from opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and youngster Lahiru Thirimanne. After that their bowlers and fielders held on to crucial chances outclassing their opponents to gain valuable points.
Virender Sehwag’s decision to open the innings with Sachin Tendulkar when in-form batsman Gautam Gambhir was in the playing XI looked out of place. His struggle with the bat continued as he presented a contrasting picture compared to his Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene.