A group of youngsters from Kandy walked into the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium some 40 minutes before the scheduled innings break. To their surprise, they saw the Indian team huddled together on the field, and the Sri Lankan openers walking towards the centre.
The youngsters, who had not seen a drop of rain during their 75-odd kilometre journey from skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s hometown, wondered why the match was delayed? And then, they glanced at the scorecard, and mystery was resolved.
Riding on two fifers — one by all-rounder Thisara Perera and the other jointly by umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Asad Rauf, the hosts entered the final with a resounding eight-wicket victory with 34.5 overs to spare.
Once the sub-standard umpiring, which cost India four wickets, was backed by an even poorer shot selection, India were bundled out for 103 runs in the 34th over.
Dharmasena, the former Sri Lanka off-spinner, started it all by adjudging Sehwag leg before wicket off Nuwan Kulasekara in the sixth over.
The opener, who was setting himself up for another big innings after Monday’s unbeaten 99, was struck on his pads on the back foot. The ball appeared sliding down the leg side, but Dharmasena raised his finger.
Dharmasena was at it again in Kulasekara’s next over when he upheld a caught-behind appeal against Dinesh Karthik, though the ball did not touch anything on its way to Kumar Sangakkara’s gloves.
Once Rohit Sharma was trapped plumb in front of the wicket, it was left to Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina to stitch together a solid partnership and keep India in the game.
For a change, Dharmasena offered Raina a chance, turning down a caught-behind appeal off Anglelo Mathews when the ball had kissed the edge of the willow. But Rauf made up for Dharmasena’s mistake three balls later as he upheld another caught-behind appeal when Raina had missed the ball.
It was the second ball of Perera’s spell and the medium-pacer, making his maiden appearance in the series, kept it tight till he dislodged Ishant Sharma’s off stump to end India’s innings.
In between, Perera was aided by horrendous shot selection by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Praveen Kumar.
And minutes before Perera celebrated his maiden five-wicket haul with Ishant’s dismissal, the howlers’ count went up to five. With eight wickets down, Yuvraj, on his return from an ailment, decided to go after the bowling and opted for batting Powerplay. Attempting an over-ambitious heave off Lasith Malinga through the on-side, he missed the ball and was hit on his left foot, outside the off stump. But Rauf upheld the appeal to end India’s last hope of extending the match by a few overs.
As for the group of youngsters from Kandy, the result made their evening even though they were dejected to have missed out on a battle within the war. Delirious with joy, they kept dancing even after the match was over.