The fireworks in the middle left the drums in the stands slightly muted. Usually when Virender Sehwag scores a run-a-ball, he is clearly the dominant partner. On Tuesday, the Najafgarh Express was matched stroke for stroke by Yuvraj Singh.
England had already tasted the sheer brutality of the left-hander when on song. It was Sri Lanka's turn now as India recorded a 147-run win and wrapped up the series in style.
<b1>It was class when Yuvraj waited for the ball to cut late between the keeper and short third man. It was an exhibition of his power when he picked up Sanath Jayasuriya for a huge six over long-on. It was perfect timing when he punched the ball through cover. It was wristy elegance as he caressed the ball from on or just outside off-stump to the midwicket fence.
A nudge behind square-leg got Yuvraj to three figures. Punching the air halfway into the single, he raised his bat and helmet to the dressing room after completing it, shadowed a forward defensive shot and acknowledged Sachin Tendulkar applauding his 11th ton in ODIs, Yuvraj's first against Sri Lanka. Just applause seemed not enough, he urged the Little Master into a reaction. He pointed back at Yuvraj, smiling brighter than the late afternoon sun. Tendulkar's agony of being given out leg-before for the third time in three matches and each time slightly less convincing than before seemed to diminish slightly.
When Yuvraj joined Sehwag, India were 24 for two, Gautam Gambhir dismissed of a deflection at the non-striker's end. Their partnership of 221 at 7.94 runs an over, had India bracing for victory early.
Sehwag was on 90 when Yuvraj got to his ton. Sehwag's came off 75 balls and was equally punishing but with Yuvraj getting more of the strike, his infliction of pain on the bowlers wasn't as obvious. But it was Sehwag who had paved the way for Yuvraj's carnage. Thumping Ajantha Mendis for the bulk of his 33 runs in his first four overs, Sehwag forced him out of the attack.
When Yuvraj was caught at point, Muttiah Muralitharan equalled Wasim Akram's record. It couldn't have been a worse day, his 10 overs costing 60 runs. Mendis's figures were even worse. His nine overs went for 64 as Yusuf Pathan slapped a 38-ball 59 with four boundaries and three sixes. Yusuf and Mahendra Singh Dhoni stayed together for the last 12 overs and saw to it that India did not lose the momentum the centurions gave them.
Sri Lanka began well even after losing Jayasuriya early. Tillakaratne Dilshan played some exciting shots and then Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene dealt in boundaries for a brief period. But with the momentum already Sri Lanka's way they took the batting Powerplay straight away like India had done. What worked for India, backfired for the hosts. Jayawardene was caught at mid-off and Thilina Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera perished in quick succession. Pragyan Ojha had Sangakkara, who was fighting a lone battle, caught at short fine-leg for his third wicket and went on to finish with career-best four for 38.