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Indians should take heart from this comeback victory

cricket Updated: Aug 20, 2008 23:54 IST
Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri
Agencies
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India hauled themselves out of a mess to draw level in the series. The scoreline might not reflect the complete dominance, but India were always winning the game after Zaheer Khan had reduced the hosts to 11 for 4. Sri Lanka were simply left with too much ground to recover.

India, on hindsight, won an important toss and the decision to field didn't require much deliberation. With Sehwag missing, and Gautam Gambhir absent due to a stiff neck, skipper Mahinder Singh Dhoni wasn't in a position to trust his batsmen to post a competitive total. His honesty came shining through at the toss when he admitted so much.

Still, nobody had foreseen Zaheer Khan to scythe through the Lankan top order in the manner he did. Zaheer has been an excellent performer for India over the years but there has been this nagging suspicion that he hasn't quite run through sides. He chips in with important scalps but there aren't many fivers in his tally. Wednesday's, though, was a match-winning performance.

Good for Zaheer that he had an able foil in the form of Praveen Kumar who never allowed Lanka to break free of the stranglehold. Praveen revels in conditions where the ball does a bit and with the breeze coming across the lake from the east at the Rangiri Stadium, Praveen could sense his chance. His critical twin blows, when a 74-run seventh wicket stand by the hosts was threatening a revival, were timely.

India would also take heart from the performance of two young kids, Virat Kohli and Subramaniam Badrinath. The latter is not as young as the Delhi lad but he too was cutting his teeth in international arena. Badrinath caught the eye with an excellent catch in the deep in the first half and then partnered his skipper for a critical 60-run sixth wicket stand. Importantly, he survived when the Mendis-Murali duo was in operation and his knock of 27 not out thus assumes bigger importance.

Mendis and Murali, on paper, don't appear to have had a great game but such an impression is way off the mark. They were at the batsmen all the time and conceded only 53 runs from almost 19 overs between them, including two scalps. Another 25-40 runs in the hosts' kitty could have made India struggle for breath.

India would now be hoping that Gambhir comes roaring back and the spirited show of Kohli and Badrinath rubs on to the rest. Much is expected from Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, as well as Yuvraj Singh who form the fulcrum of India's batting. If these three pick up the threads from now on, India can hope to look the hosts in the eye, with confidence.