A penetrative four-wicket burst, a tail-end revival, a critical partnership between senior pro and debutant, the second
Sri Lanka Innings:
Jayasuriya lbw b Zaheer 13
Sangakkara b Zaheer 2
Jayawardene c Yuvraj b Zaheer 2
Kapugedera c MS Dhoni b Zaheer 0
Silva c Kohli b Praveen 0
Dilshan c Badrinath b Pathan 16
Kulasekera c Badrinath b Praveen 25
Thushara c Kohli b Praveen 44
Mendis c & b Harbhajan 0
Fernando c Kohli b Harbhajan 12
Muralitharan not out 11
Extras (lb-6, w-11) 17
Total (in 38.3 overs) 142
Fall of wkts: 1-4, 2-10, 3-10, 4-11, 5-33, 6-44, 7-118, 8-118, 9-122
Z Khan 9.5-3-21-4
Pathan c Sangakkara b Kulasekera 5
Kohli c Kapugedera b Thushara 37
Raina lbw b Kulasekera 1
Yuvraj lbw b Mendis 20
Dhoni b Fernando 39
Sharma lbw b Thushara 0
Badrinath not out 27
Harbhajan lbw b Mendis 1
Zaheer not out 2
Extras (b-3, lb-4, w-2, nb-2) 11
Total (for 7 wkts, 39.4 overs) 143
Fall of wkts: 1-8, 2-16, 3-52, 4-75, 5-75, 6-135, 7-139
ODI had all the ingredients you could ask for, and once again a low-scoring match produced a thriller.
India will heave a sigh of relief that they were at the right end of the result, holding their nerve to sneak a three-wicket win and square the series 1-1.
When Gautam Gambhir woke up with a stiff neck and was ruled out of the match, India were forced to give S Badrinath his ODI debut and stick to their five-bowler combination. As a consequence Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to bowl first when he won the toss. Zaheer Khan grabbed the opportunity, bowling with pace to wreck Sri Lanka's top order.
Zaheer hit his straps from the word go, and bowled flat out, the ball repeatedly thudding into Dhoni's gloves. Kumar Sangakkara was nailed with a pacy delivery that seamed in appreciably, passing between bat and pad to peg back off stump. Mahela Jayawardene was the recipient of the second peach, a delivery that slanted away and kept going with the angle, only to spear off the outside edge to first slip.
Two balls later Chamara Kapugedara was lured into a similar poke, with the same result. At 10 for 3 Sri Lanka were rattled and Praveen Kumar made it 11 for 4 when Chamara Silva got one that bounced extra and took the shoulder of the bat, ballooning to point.
All through this period of mayhem Sanath Jayasuriya had stonewalled, lurking dangerously, looking to play out the first spell. Jayasuriya had occupied the crease for one minute short of an hour when Zaheer settled the matter decisively in India's favour, trapping him (13) in front of the stumps with a ball that might have been hitting top of middle stump had pad not got in the way.
Tillakaratne Dilshan counter-attacked and instinctively flicked a loose ball from Irfan Pathan into the deep. Dilshan did not bother with keeping the ball down and Badri ran in from the ropes to take a good catch diving forward. At 44 for 6, with all specialist batsmen dismissed, India appeared to have the game in the bag. Thilan Thushara, who would end with the top score of 44, combined with Nuwan Kulasekara in a 74-run stand that pushed the total to 142 and gave the bowlers something to work with. India, out at bat even before the scheduled lunch break, soon realised that chasing 143 would require hard graft and application.
Had it not been for a calming 60-run sixth wicket stand between Dhoni (39) and Badrinath (27*), India's batsmen might well have thrown away a game their bowlers had set up perfectly. Badri, walking out to bat on debut with India in a tight corner at 75 for 5, proved the perfect man for the job, knuckling down and eliminating all risk, merely occupying the crease with Dhoni, while the runs slowly accumulated. While Dhoni fell with India on the verge of victory, Badri remained till the end, ensuring the job was done.
Till that decisive partnership, though, things looked shaky. Kulasekara sent back makeshift opener Pathan and one-drop Suresh Raina in quick time, leaving India at 16 for 2. Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli defended well, stringing together a partnership, and every now and then the vice-captain unfurled strokes of breathtaking beauty and power to remind bowlers just who they were dealing with. But Ajantha Mendis weighed in with a reminder of his own, getting a carom ball to pitch in line and straighten enough to win an lbw shout against Yuvraj (20).
Kohli (37), having done all the hard work, offered short cover with the simplest of chances with the score on 75. Rohit Sharma fell for a second-ball duck and at 75 for 5. A further wobble would give fans anxious moments, but India held on to win with three wickets to spare.