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India’s final letdown

cricket Updated: Jan 13, 2010 23:07 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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Even before the lights came on at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium and the dew set in, India had handed the initiative to Sri Lanka in the final of the tri-series on Wednesday.

Put in, Suresh Raina’s third one-day century helped India post a moderate 245. When Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh raised hopes with the ball, India had too few runs on the board. After a very good end to 2009, India began the year failing to win a tri-series they could have won.

Right through the tournament, teams bowling first have gone on to win with the dew making it difficult for bowlers in the second session. So, in overcast and foggy conditions, fielding first was the obvious choice for Kumar Sangakkara.

What the India batsmen did was something that even their opponents would not have expected. Into the 11th over, they had lost half the side. It was around the same time when the six Test players, including Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid, were checking into the team hotel in Dhaka after waiting for close to an hour at the airport for their luggage.

The ball was moving a bit and there was some bounce for the medium-pacers. But it was not something Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys did not expect. It had been like this in all the matches and all they had to do was to play out the first 10 overs
without losing wickets. But they got off to a start probably worse than the one Sri Lanka got in the abandoned Kotla match.

It could be a hangover of the electrifying starts in the previous series. It could also be trying to set a massive target that would be beyond the opponents even in these conditions. But the Indian top order, it seems, did not learn from the mistakes of their previous loss here.

Gautam Gambhir saw one catching his thigh pad and crashing into the stumps. Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and M.S. Dhoni perished to edges and Virender Sehwag, after showing a lot of restraint in the first 10 overs, guided one to Sangakkara just as things were starting to ease out for batsmen.

India’s hopes rested on Raina and Ravindra Jadeja and the left-handers put their heads down to give the total some respectability. Raina played some very good shots, especially a couple of inside-out ones over the in-field.

Even though Ashish Nehra limped off after bowling 2.3 overs, Sri Lanka looked like choking. Signs of panic crept in when Harbhajan forced an edge off Sangakkara. The pressure mounted as they lost Thilan Samaraweera, Thilina Kandamby and Suraj Randiv. But Mahela Jayawardene stayed till the end to see them through.