India welcome sweet revenge
Sri Lanka had the beating of them on more than the odd occasion across the recent ODI tri-series in Australia, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men were quick to turn the tables on their opposition in Tuesday's Asia Cup clash.
Sri Lanka had the beating of them on more than the odd occasion across the recent ODI tri-series, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men were quick to turn the tables on their opposition in Tuesday's Asia Cup clash.
Chasing a staunch 305-run target in the wake of Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli's centuries, the Sri Lankans were briefly in the hunt when Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were going strong. A severe lack of support for the old guard, though, eventually left too much for the lower order to do and a 50-run defeat was theirs to endure.
India were a far more formidable unit than the one that left Australia with their tails between their legs. Their bowlers, in particular, came to the party, although critics will be quick to point out that the sub-continental conditions fell right into the winning attack's hands. Irfan Pathan proved the pick of the bunch in securing figures of four for 32, while fellow seamer Vinay Kumar weighed in with three for 55.
It was spinner Ravichandran Aswhin's two key scalps in the 36th over of the chase, though, that dealt the Sri Lankans their most telling blows. Sangakkara, determined not to suffer the same fate as Jayawardene, who couldn't convert his 78 into a potentially match-winning century, was ultimately thwarted.
Holing out in the deep for 65, he returned to hut to watch Lahiru Thirimanne fall lbw to Ashwin. Enjoying his newfound role as a middle-order batsman, former opener Thirimanne was only able to deliver 29 on Tuesday.
Nuwan Kulasekara's promotion up the order mid-batting Powerplay didn't work and Chamara Kapugedera wasted the umpteenth opportunity of his waning career, while there was only so much Farveez Maharoof and Upul Tharanga could manage before the ballooning asking rate got the better of them. The tail-enders followed suit as India welcomed victory with all of 4.5 overs to spell.
Earlier Gambhir and Kohli laid the foundation before swashbuckling cameos from MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina propelled India to a hefty 304-run total.
Sri Lanka's choice to bowl first after winning the toss bore early fruit, with Sachin Tendulkar's ongoing quest for a 100th international century again thwarted. There was initial doubt over the legitimacy of Jayawardene's catch at cover, but television replays soon proved the fielder was in the right and Tendulkar was sent packing for a mere six.
The next 37 overs belonged entirely to Kohli and Gambhir, who reached their tons within three deliveries of each other. The right-hander got their first, punching the air in delight at the arrival of his milestone. The fastest man to reach 10 ODI centuries, requiring just 80 knocks, seems the best bet to permanently replace the recently retired Rahul Dravid at three in the Test order.
Gambhir was next, also reaching 10 ODI tons. Requiring one delivery more than the 115 Kohli took to secure three figures, the opener was grateful to graduate after falling in the 90s twice in the recent tri-series in Australia.
Their 205-run alliance – an Asia Cup second-wicket record – met its end when Gambhir perished for 100 on the dot and Kohli was out for 108 a couple of balls later.
Although Maharoof's quick brace afforded the Sri Lankans some respite, they were soon chasing leather again as Dhoni and Raina tucked into an unbeaten 78-run stand across the last 43 balls of the innings.
There was no stopping the duo, who pushed a score that at one stage seemed destined for 280 to an inevitably insurmountable 300-plus behemoth.
Game three of the four-team Asia Cup arrives on Thursday, when Pakistan lock horns with Jayawardene and company at the same venue.
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