|Ground:||Barabati Stadium, Cuttack|
|Scorecard:||India v Sri Lanka|
|Player:||WU Tharanga, RA Jadeja, SR Tendulkar|
|Event:||Sri Lanka in India 2009/10|
DateLine: 21st December 2009
There were contrasting opinions of both skippers at the toss. While Sangakkara was elated having won the toss and electing to bat first, Sehwag in a characteristic manner downplayed any advantage of batting first, bringing the dew factor to the fore. All experts hailed Sangakkara's decision because to the naked eye the pitch looked as if it would crumble. It all though boiled down to some gritty batting by Sachin Tendulkar, exceptional bowling by Ravindra Jadeja and irresponsible batting by the Lankans to handover a seven wicket win for the hosts.
The dew factor also played its part as the Lankan spinners hardly got the ball to turn and even the wily Mendis only looked equivalent to a medium pacer bowling an awry line and length. India with the courtesy of this comprehensive win now go 2-1 ahead in the series.
Chasing a competitive 240 to win and go upfront in the five match series, the Indian openers started with a tinge of caution. It is not often that Sehwag plays a maiden, especially the first over of the innings but it was some good bowling from Welegedara that forced even the smasher to remain in his shell for the first six deliveries. It was Tendulkar who hit India's first boundary, a crisp flick of Kulasekara in the second over of the innings. He took a magnificent four of Welegedara's next over, driving him on the up through covers.
Then Sehwag cut loose and for the next half an hour it was only the Nawab from Najafgarh whose willow did the talking. If Dilshan looked good at the start of the match, Sehwag matched him par excellence. Boundaries became a regularity as Tendulkar could hardly get the strike back. It has started to look a little insane when Sehwag and Dilshan bat these days. Both make the bowling side look no better than a grade-4 club outfit, sometimes even worse. Sehwag drove, cut, edged and flicked with paramount precision as once again in the series, Sangakkara looked for answers amongst his bowlers, who looked back almost admitting they had none.
Finally it was Sehwag's arrogance more than the bowlers talent that gave the tourists the wicket. The right-hander smashed a short ball in the air to backward point where Dilshan first fumbled but then managed to grasp it off his chest. The damage though was done by then. India had managed a run rate of 8 at the time he fell and with the line-up they boasted on paper, the task did not look that ominous.
Gambhir joined Tendulkar in the middle and the duo added 72 for the second wicket. Gambhir uncharacteristically was a little slow and never got going in his knock but all this while as he struggled, Sachin managed to keep the run-rate going with some trademark master strokes, a chip of Kulasekara, over Sangakkara's head summed up the form he has been in the last couple of years.
Gambhir got out to an excellent caught and bowled of Suraj Randiv and at that stage the tourists could have smelled a little opening, since it was from a similar situation that they lost control of the game when they batted. Yuvraj Singh though, who came in to replace Gambhir had other ideas. After a little time on the wicket, he started to play the crisp drives that is so often associated with the left-hander. He hit three boundaries in the cover region, all the time beating the player protecting the region due of sheer timing.
Just when it seemed India were cruising, Yuvraj was caught behind of the bowling of Welegedara. The dismissal was set-up well as two silent overs passed by without many runs being scored. Dinesh Karthik joined Sachin and the two of them did well to take India home without any further damage. Karthik started audaciously hitting Mendis over long-on where Kandamby made a mess of a simple fielding chance. Another couple of beauties of Mendis made sure the Lankan shoulders started to droop. The poor mystery spinner was not helped at all by the amount of dew on the ground which made bowling difficult all the while at the Barabati.
The duo finished formalities as India beat the Lankans by 7 wickets and went 2-1 up in the five match series.
Earlier in the afternoon Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara won an important toss and decided to bat first on a track which looked like slowing down as the game progresses. As has been the story of the series thus far, the Lankan openers came out and started scattering the ball all around the park. The first over went for 14 and Lanka had scaled 50 inside four overs. Here onwards, a total of 300 looked cakewalk for the tourists but then against the run of play they started losing wickets one after the other, sometimes even in pairs as Ravindra Jadeja spun a web and others did well around him to restrict Lanka to a mere 239.
Tillakaratne Dilshan playing in his usual style, cracked a whimping 41 off 18 as his first 32 was studded with eight hits to the fence. Boundaries looked more regular and easy then a push down to third-men as both Dilshan and Upul Tharanga were authoritative with their willows. Zaheer Khan bowled three wides in the opening over and Dilshan started very early cracking two fours. Then Ishant was greeted with a crisp shot to long-on and a little later a six over long-off meant the openers wanted to dominate early and succeeded.
Nehra came on and India had their first realistic opportunity as Dilshan could have been run-out for 36. The right-hander could have gone on 36 had Kathik not made a mess of a simple run-out chance. Fortunately for the replacement wicketkeeper the miss didn't prove costly as a top-edge off Nehra ended the whirlwind. The run-rate though was 10 already and with Tharanga continuing to hit runs, the situation still threatened the hosts.
The wicket brought Sri Lanka's man-in-form Sangakkara to the crease and he started to play as if he had never left the track. A drive off Ishant brought up the Lankan hundred and a few balls later when Tharanga edged Harbhajan down to third man, he had his half-century from 51 balls. The Lankan captain continued to flourish as Sehwag was lifted for a straight six. Things had started to look ominous for the home side at this stage but Sri Lanka in a way helped them to be restricted a modest total.
From 165 for 1 after 22.2 overs, they collapsed in spectacular fashion. An unexpected Ravindra Jadeja led the way and he alongside Ishant and some poor shot selection by the Lankans made sure the remaining nine wickets fell for an addition of a mere 74 runs.
It was Virender Sehwag though who brought India the first major breakthrough, fooling Sangakkara in the flight and a fumbling Karthik did the rest. This success started the wicket slide as Tharanga lost his bail to a beautifully spinning Jadeja's orthodox delivery.
Sri Lanka could never stage a recovery post these two wickets. Mahela Jayawardene continued his poor series when he slugged a long hop from Harbhajan Singh to short midwicket, where Suresh Raina took an easy catch. Thilina Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera tried to stem the flow of wickets, but then Jadeja and Ishant combined to end all hopes of a large total.
First, Kapugedera played on off Jadeja, and then Kandamby too found the inner edge off Ishant. When Suraj Randiv got a thin edge to one that moved away, it was 210 for 7. Jadeja then trapped Nuwan Kulasekara plumb in front as Sri Lanka unravelled completely. Jadeja then slid one through Ajantha Mendis' defence and finished with good figures of 4 for 32 from his 10 overs. Nehra finished the proceedings disturbing Malinga's timber.