Ajantha Mendis spun the kind of web only Muttiah Muralitharan usually conjures sending India crashing to a comprehensive defeat in the final of the Asia Cup. If India’s bowlers thought they had done a good job in restricting Sri Lanka to only 273, Mendis, with his mixed bag of deceptive spin, knocked the stuffing out of the Indian top order, snaring 4 for 8 from a first spell and ending with BLAH as India hurtled to defeat. Only Virender Sehwag, with 69, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (49) put up any kind of resistance as the less experienced Indian bats failed to pick Mendis.
At the end of the day it may appear as though the bowlers had a perfect day; but it wasn't success all the way. In the first half, even as India’s bowlers, led by Ishant Sharma, sent back one batsman after another to the hut, they were left in awe by Sanath Jayasuriya’s incredible and ruthless assault at one end.
The lefthander, apparently unmindful of the wickets tumbling at the other end, whipped up a storm, sending the Indian fielders scurrying for cover. He got stuck into the Indian bowlers, smashing them all over to bring up a scintillating century. However, the Indian bowlers, to their huge credit, did not wilt under his brutal attack and kept the batsmen at the other end under pressure.
Sri Lanka were immediately on the back foot after Suresh Raina ran out Kumar Sangakkara in the second over. The huge breakthrough boosted the morale of the Indian bowlers, and it became evident in the subsequent overs sent down by RP Singh and Ishant Sharma, in particular.
The lanky bowler, who had looked pretty ineffective in the tournament, save for the last game, ran in hard and extracted enough bounce to unsettle the batsmen. And soon he had three wickets against his name. First, he had skipper Mahela Jayawardene caught at point, and then he accounted for Chamara Kapugadera and Chamara Silva in successive deliveries, left the Lankans in trouble at 66/4. At this stage, India’s bowlers looked perfectly set to go for the kill. But Jayasuriya sprang a surprise on them by launching a ferocious counterattack, instead of curbing his attacking instincts. The lefthander picked up Irfan Pathan for special treatment, before tearing into R.P. Singh, smashing him for three sixes and two fours in a 26-run over.
The bowlers were left completely bamboozled by this unexpected assault, which stopped only when the man inflicting it thought it was enough. After bringing up his century with nine boundaries and five sixes, Jayasuriaya slowed down, allowing the bowlers some relief.
Pragyan Ojha and the part-time spinners rushed through their overs, as Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan stitched a 131-run stand to put Lanka back on track. But just when Jayasuriya was getting ready to launch the final assault, Virender Sehwag suckered him into holing out to Ishant at deep square-leg. And once he was gone, India tightened the screws.
Jayasuriya c I Sharma b Sehwag 125 Sangakkara run out (Raina) 4
Jayawardene c Rohit b Ishant 11 Kapugedera c Raina b Ishant 5
Silva b Ishant 0
Dilshan c Dhoni b Irfan 56
Vaas b Singh 19
Kulasekara not out 29
Thushara lbw b Singh 5
Mendis b Singh 8
Muralitharan c Dhoni b Pathan 2
Extras (lb-8, w-1) 9
Total (in 49.5 overs) 273
Fall of wkts: 1-11, 2-34, 3-66, 4-66, 5-197, 6-213, 7-236, 8-256 , 9-264, 10-273
Bowling: RP Singh 9-1-67-3, Sharma 10-1-52-3 , Pathan 9.5-0-67–2, Ojha 10-1-38-0 , Sehwag 8-0-30-1, Rohit
Gambhir c Dilshan b Vaas 6
Sehwag st Sangakkara b Mendis 60
Raina b Mendis 16
Yuvraj b Mendis 0
Dhoni c Sangakkara b Vaas 49
Rohit lbw b Mendis 3
Uthappa lbw b Muralitharan 20
Irfan c Jayawardene b Mendis 2
RP b Mendis 0
Ojha not out 6
Ishant b Kulasekara 8
Extras (b-2, w-1) 3
Total (in 39.3 overs) 173
Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-76, 3-76, 4-93, 5-97, 6-135, 7-154, 8-154, 9-160
Bowling: Vaas 9-0-55-2, Kulasekara 6.3-0-26-1, Thushara 8-0-51-0, Mendis 8-1-13-6, Muralitharan 8-0-26-1.