India Thrash Sri Lanka

murli.jpgAn all-round performance helped India beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in a must-win encounter on Tuesday and seal their place in next month’s finals against Australia in the Commonwealth Bank Triangular Series. Pacers Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma bagged four-wicket hauls while Sachin Tendulkar and in-form Gautam Gambhir scored 63 runs each to ensure that India won with ease. Gambhir and Rohit Sharma remained unbeaten till the end.
Praveen, who took his career-best haul, and Ishant first helped bundle out Sri Lanka for 179 in 47.1 overs. Then, Tendulkar revived his form and raised 102 runs with Gambhir to take India to 180 for three wickets and win with 17.4 overs to spare in front of a small crowd at the scenic Bellerive Oval.
The best-of-three finals will be played on March 2, 4 and 7. India’s win now means that the last match of the league phase between Australia and Sri Lanka, in Melbourne on Friday, will be of academic interest only. India ended its league engagements with 17 points from eight matches while Australia had earlier ensured its entry into the finals with 26 points from seven matches. Even if Sri Lanka, who have only six points from seven matches, beat Australia with a bonus point, it will take their points tally only to 11. It was like a cakewalk for India in Tuesday’s match. The only failure of the day was Robin Uthappa, who was promoted to open the innings with Tendulkar, replacing Virender Sehwag who had been dropped again. Uthappa’s dismissal brought Tendulkar and Gambhir together and they did not looked back after that as they virtually toyed with a six-man bowling attack. Both of them played their strokes freely as the Sri Lankans looked despondent. Yuvraj Singh also came good with 36 runs and was involved in a 51-run third-wicket stand with Gambhir. Earlier, Praveen bagged his first wicket in ODIs, the prized scalp of Kumar Sangakkara and went on to dismiss Captain Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Silva and Muttiah Muralitharan. This hastened the fall of Sri Lanka, after they were put in to bat by toss-winning India Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Uttar Pradesh’s Praveen, playing only his third match, finished with panache. Praveen’s pace partner Ishant, the find of the ongoing tour, bagged his second four-wicket haul.For Sri Lanka, Chamara Kapugedera was the top scorer with a fine 57 – the lone half-century of the innings. Sanath Jayasuriya and Sangakkara chipped in with useful contributions, but the rest of the batsmen failed. After Ishant cast aside opener Dilruwan Perera with ease, Sangakkara and former captain Jayasuriya joined hands to add 57 for the second wicket. They batted for 10.5 overs, scoring at a good rate of 5.26 runs per over. Then Praveen got into the act and crippled the Sri Lankan top order with three wickets in three successive overs. In the very next over, left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan added to Sri Lanka’s miseries by inducing an edge from the dangerous Jayasuriya to wicketkeeper Dhoni as he tried to play the hook. It was Dhoni’s 100th career catch in his 104 ODI. Kapugedera and Lasith Malinga defied the Indian bowlers for 13 overs to add 46 for the eighth wicket and then the 21-year-old right-hander added a crucial 40 for the ninth wicket with Muralitharan that made the total look somewhat respectable, though inadequate to challenge India. Raghav Agarwal[Image courtesy:]