It was a bold decision by the newly appointed Sri Lankan chairman of selectors, Aravinda de Silva, to leave out Sanath Jayasuriya and Ajantha Mendis for the Asia Cup.
The former Lanka batsman had backed his selection saying, “I can tell you not to dismiss these players (the replacements). We need to give them a chance.”
De Silva was looking at the future and he didn’t err in his choice of players. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka fielded a team without Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Samaraweera, and still beat India by seven wickets in a dead rubber.
It was not surprising to see Kumar Sangakkara win the toss and invite India to bat. The hosts had won their two previous matches batting first and the Lanka skipper wanted to test his side while chasing.
India rang in three changes and Dinesh Karthik (40), who replaced Virender Sehwag, braved some nervous moments. Gautam Gambhir (23) broke the shackles by stepping out to Farveez Maharoof in the sixth over and with the four off Chanaka Welegedara in the seventh, he picked up the sluggish run rate.
But the day belonged to Maharoof.
After Angelo Mathews removed Gambhir, Maharoof pegged India back with a hattrick and then a five-for. The seamer picked up his first wicket with a delivery that moved just enough to carry a nick from Virat Kohli to Sangakkara. It was in the 39th over that he peaked with three consecutive wickets.
Only Rohit Sharma survived the attack to score 69 and take India to 209, with a valuable 79-run stand for the fifth wicket with MS Dhoni (41).
The run chase was a cakewalk. Tillakaratne Dilshan (24) plundered 15 runs off Zaheer Khan’s first over, but it was his partner Upul Tharanga (38) who stole the thunder. The two were scoring at more than six an over when Zaheer removed Dilshan.
Sangakkara’s entry proved calamitous as the skipper formed the bedrock of the hosts’ run chase. He smote 10 fours en route to a classy 73. Sangakkara’s 104-run stand with Mahela Jayawardene (53 not out) took them home.