Asia Cup 2014 Results: Sangakkara Blinder Gives Sri Lanka Stunning Win over India
By Deepak Vikraman | March 1, 2014 2:56 AM EST
Kumar Sangakkara is not one of those batsmen who pummel you into submission, the left-hander is more about the caress; an astute flick here, a gorgeous over the top cover drive there, and a pull shot that pierces the gap and without even being aware an excessive run rate is made to look like a relaxing drink.
Ravindra Jadeja (10-1-30-3), unerring line, length and aided by a bit of turn and R Ashwin (10-0-42-2) threatened to steal India a win after an underwhelming performance from their batsmen, but Sangakkara, wielding that magical blade of his, brought his opponents to their knees with an absolute ODI batting master class to take Sri Lanka to their second straight victory in the Asia Cup 2014.
Chasing 265, after India only managed 264 for nine in their 50 overs, despite a nice 94 from Shikhar Dhawan, Sri Lanka were up against it at 183 for six, only for Sangakkara (103, 84b, 12x4, 1x6) to play an innings of class and style to pull the Lankans to 265 for eight in 49.2 overs for a two-wicket win.
Lahiru Thirimanne, fresh from his hundred against Pakistan, and Kusal Perera began quite well for Sri Lanka, going at a fair clip, and putting the pressure firmly back on the Indian bowlers.
Mohammed Shami, who clearly prefers bowling to right-handers, had a bit of a torrid time at the start, while India were not helped by some dropped chances - three of them, in fact, albeit difficult ones, which only the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja could have made anything of to begin with.
Chasing a modest 265, Sri Lanka zoomed to 73 for no loss after the first 15 overs, looking well on course to complete a comfortable victory. But then India were in a similar comfortable position too, before it all went pear-shaped, and the Lankans lost Thirimanne (38, 55b, 4x4, 1x6) to I'm-back-to-my-usual-bowling-action Ashwin, with the off-spinner, not mystery I-want-to-be-the-next-Sunil-Narine spinner, trapping the left-hander in front of the wicket.
Sri Lanka were still in a comfortable position at 80 for one, with two of their most experienced batsmen still to come. Kumar Sangakkara and Perera, who played a couple of wonderful shots that reminded one of the great Sanath Jayasuriya, pushed their side closer to the target with a 54-run partnership, before Ashwin, with a peach of an off-spinner, sent Perera (64, 81b, 4x4, 2x6) packing.
Mahela Jayawardene has looked out of sorts in his last few matches, and the poor form showed no signs of dissipating, with the elegant right-hander gifting a catch straight to Rohit Sharma at covers, before, off the very next ball, Jadeja made it two wickets in two, castling Dinesh Chandimal with a ripper of an off-spinner.
India were right back in the game now, and would have been in an even more stronger position had Dinesh Karthik hit the bails with his gloves instead of thin air while attempting a stumping to dismiss Sangakkara; but, Sri Lanka, with the left-hander still at crease, were still in the game, with skipper Angelo Mathews joining him at the other end.
Mathews, who picked up a slight groin injury in the first innings, showed no ill-effects in the middle, but lasted only 18 deliveries, from which he made six, with Shami coming back with a vengeance to dismiss the dangerous right-hander lbw.
Shami then picked up Sachitra Senanayake as well as India quickly envisioned a win, with Sri Lanka needing 82 from the final 11 overs, with four wickets in hand.
But then, Sangakkara is not an all-time great for no reason, and the left-hander just stepped up a gear without even looking like it to take his side to the brink of victory, while also getting to his hundred, in stupendous style.
Sangakkara got out to Shami (three for 81) with Sri Lanka needing seven from the final nine deliveries, which Thisara Perera and Ajantha Mendis duly chased down.
Earlier, India had one of those half-asleep on the wheel days with the bat, starting slowly, then finding that cup-of-coffee-injected energy, before going down alarmingly to end up on a what-was-the-point-of-that-really score.
The opening was a little tetchy, with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan again finding it difficult to get their timing right on a pitch which saw the ball barely go above knee level.
The problem with these Indian batsmen is - they like the ball to come onto the bat, and indeed prefer it, as long as, of course, the ball does nothing off the pitch or the air.
Rohit (13, 28b, 1x4) has the habit of getting stuck at the top of the innings, and that was the case again, as Dhawan was the proactive of the two. A lazy jump down the wicket off Sachitra Senanayake saw him push out with the pad with the ball duly striking the protective gear and umpire Nigel Llong lifting his index finger to give the batsman out.
The wicket actually seemed like a momentum-changer for India, as it brought in I'm-going-to-make-a-mockery-of-the-ODI-records Kohli into the crease, with the India skipper and Dhawan putting on a serene partnership worth 95 from 17.1 overs.
From a terse 33 for one in the tenth over, India were now in cruise control at 130 in the 27th over, before the blow heavier than Muhammad Ali in his prime was landed by Ajantha Mendis, who foxed the seemingly un-getoutable Kohli (48, 51b, 4x4, 1x6) to nick the off stump.
India were still in a strong position, though, with last match anchorman Ajinkya Rahane joining Dhawan, who looked set for a hundred. And it was all going swimmingly again with the two taking India to 175 with 15 overs remaining in the innings, before Rahane and then Dhawan's wickets turned the game entirely in Sri Lanka's favour.
It was the spinners that again did the trick, with Rahane (22, 27b, 1x4) looping a catch to Thirimanne in the first ball of the 36th over from Senanayake, before, four overs later, Mendis castled Dhawan (94, 114b, 7x4, 1x6) to prevent the left-hander from picking up his sixth ODI century.
The last ten overs was a bit of a nightmare for India, as Dinesh I'm-not-good-enough-to-fill-MS-Dhoni's-shoes Karthik, Ambati I-don't-seem-like-I'm-cut-out-for-international-cricket Rayudu and Stuart oh-man-another-forgettable-match-again Binny all went quickly - the Sri Lankan spinners Senanayake (three for 41) and Mendis (four for 60) turning the screws and leaving Ravindra Jadeja (22 n.o., 27b, 1x6) and R Ashwin (18, 16b, 2x4) to pick up the pieces.
Suddenly from a certain 300-plus score, India were now targeting anything above 250, which they managed thanks to a couple of sixes in the penultimate over from No.11 Mohammed Shami (14 n.o., 7b, 2x6), with Sri Lanka conceding just 89 runs from the final 15 overs, while taking seven wickets.
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