Clinical India clinch ninth straight win
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter
DateLine: 5th February 2009
Muttiah Muralitharan breaking Wasim Akram's world record to become the highest wicket-taker in one-day internationals was the only moment of joy for Sri Lanka on a day when India stormed to their fourth consecutive victory of the series in Colombo. Gautam Gambhir smashed 150 - his best ODI score - and Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 94 at No. 3 to lead India to 332 for 5. Their bowlers overcame the attack from Sri Lanka's openers and dismissed the hosts for 265, although the contest was over long before then. India now lead 4-0 in the five-match series, having already beaten England 5-0 at home last year. Off-spinner Muralitharan, the world's leading bowler in Test cricket, became the highest wicket-taker in one-day internationals when he dismissed Gambhir for his 503rd victim. The 36-year-old Sri Lankan surpassed former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram's one-day record when he had Gambhir caught by wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara in his 10th and last over. Muralitharan also holds the world record in Tests with 769 wickets in 125 matches.
Gambhir and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (94) dominated the Sri Lankan attack with a wide range of attacking shots, adding 188 for the second wicket after the early dismissal of in-form Virender Sehwag. Sehwag, who scored 116 in the last match, contributed just five this time before uppishly driving fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara to Sanath Jayasuriya at mid-off in the third over. Sri Lanka then had to wait for more than 30 overs for their next success as Gambhir and Dhoni made the most of a mediocre attack on a slow pitch. The hosts' fielding also left a lot to be desired under pressure.
Gambhir was the first to reach his half-century, hoisting seamer Angelo Mathews over long-on for a six. Dhoni also completed his fifty in style, swinging Muralitharan over mid-wicket for a six. Dhoni, who promoted himself in the batting order, fell six short of his fifth hundred in one-dayers when he mistimed a shot off left-arm spinner Jayasuriya, with Dilhara Fernando taking a one-handed catch at point. The Indian skipper hit two sixes and four boundaries in his 96-ball knock. Kulasekara then bowled Yuvraj Singh for five and Yusuf Pathan for no score off successive deliveries to raise his team's hopes of restricting India. But there was no stopping Gambhir, who reached his century with a lofted four over covers off Kulasekara. He hit one six and 14 fours before being the fifth man out. Gambhir added 103 for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina, who remained unbeaten with a 37-ball 49.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya were aware that India did not have their best attack on the field and looked to bully the bowlers. They got off to a blazing start but the weight of the required run-rate was too much and both batsmen fell trying to manufacture shots. For the third match in a row, unruly elements in the crowd at the Premadasa Stadium interrupted play, and this time Mahendra Singh Dhoni had enough and led his team off the field. Only 17.2 overs had been bowled by then, and 27 minutes were lost to the disruption. Play resumed only after a few stands were vacated. Before the interruption, Praveen Kumar bowled an eight-over spell during which he reined Sri Lanka in. He had conceded only 33 of the 102 runs at the end of 16 overs, 12 of which came in his second over when Dilshan got stuck into him. Dilshan raced past Jayasuriya initially, leading Sri Lanka to 28 in the third over. At the other end, Jayasuriya took delight in flicking Irfan Pathan off his pads and hitting him over extra cover. However, he tried one shot too many and pulled Irfan straight to short cover where Rohit Sharma reacted quickly. Praveen had the final laugh in the battle against Dilshan, after the batsman top-edged a pull yet again.
Between them, Jayasuriya and Dilshan had scored 61 off 65 balls, but their dismissals meant Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had to consolidate for a while. Dhoni chose to have six fielders inside the ring even after the bowling Powerplay ended. Sangakkara then hit three boundaries in an Ishant Sharma over, which made Dhoni revert to a normal field before the crowd had its say. After the break Dhoni used his part time spinners in tandem with Ojha who once again bowled beautifully. Sehwag broke through the stand of Jayawardene and Sangakkara when he had Jayawardene edging behind and then removed Sangakkara as he tried to loft Sehwag out off the ground. The rest off the proceedings became just a formality as the series began to become a sort of nightmare for the Sri Lankan team. The batsmen could not get the bowlers away as the run rate began to shoot up and reached an unimaginable 10 run an over after the dismissal of Sangakkara.
Kandamby was plumb to a straighter one from Yusuf, Kapugedera was cleaned by the ever-improving Ojha before Yuvraj joined the party by dismissing Angelo Mathews.
Irfan Pathan was taken apart in his first spell but he came back towards the end and claimed a couple of cheap wickets and finally Praveen Kumar cleaned up Fernando to lead India to their ninth consecutive win.