India’s reign at the pinnacle of the ICC ODI rankings proved as short as humanly possible, lasting approximately 24 hours. Even before Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men could figure out what it felt like to be on top of the world, they were rudely brought down to earth by a Sri Lankan performance that was an ominous portent of what could be in store on Monday.
If the scriptwriter in the sky chose to play a cruel prank on the Indians, giving them the smallest sampling of what they have been working towards over the last couple of years, he chose to hand Sri Lanka a flawless template. Win the toss, choose to bat, start aggressively, consolidate efficiently, finish with a bang and post 300-plus.
India’s batsmen knew that it was going to take a miracle to chase down 308 under lights at the R Premadasa Stadium, and even seeing Sri Lanka’s batsmen providing a demonstration did not help. With the ball darting around a bit under lights, Thilan Thushara and Nuwan Kulasekara accounted for India’s openers with only 67 on the board in the 15th over.
Rahul Dravid, struggling immensely to beat the field, and Yuvraj Singh, distinctively jumpy to begin with, kept the voluble home crowd quiet for almost half an hour. But Yuvraj eventually found a Lasith Malinga delivery too good to resist, nibbling to the keeper. Suresh Raina glided an Angelo Mathews offcutter to Kumar Sangakkara, and at 108 for 4, with 200 still needed, Dhoni was given the honour of trying to achieve the impossible.
Mathews scalped two big names on way to a six-wicket haul, with Dravid (47) losing his off stump just as he found his feet, and Dhoni dragging one back. India eventually reached 168, reducing the margin of defeat to 139, but they can take almost no positives to the final.
Though Sri Lanka were efficient with the ball, the match had all but been won in the first half. Ashish Nehra, Man of the Match on Friday, arrived on Saturday minus his radar and sprayed the ball. With Tillakaratne Dilshan attacking relentlessly, Sanath Jayasuriya was left to craft his innings as he would. And when Jayasuriya is out in the middle, runs always come at a fast clip.
Even with Mahela Jayawardene being wrongly given out stumped by TV umpire Gamini Silva and Sangakkara being slyly trapped in front, Jayasuriya powered on, finding an able partner in the impressive Mathews. The two put on 70 for the fourth wicket before Jayasuriya was denied his 29th ODI ton by Nehra, who finally landed one on a good spot.
For India, relief turned to disbelief as Thilina Kandamby provided a masterclass in how to finish an ODI innings. Beginning with cheeky glides and deft tucks, Kandamby paced himself almost perfectly, exploding in the batting powerplay taken in the last five overs of an innings. Had the cricketing gods been kinder, Kandamby (91 not out) would have ended with a century, and Jayasuriya (98) for that matter. But, as the freshly dethroned Indians will testify, today was a day when the man upstairs decided to exhibit his unusual sense of humour.
T Dilshan c Dhoni b Sharma 23, Jayasuriya lbw b Nehra 98, Jayawardene st Dhoni b Pathan 17, Sangakkara lbw b Harbhajan 5,
Mathews st Dhoni b Raina 19, Kandamby not out 91, C. Kapugedara run out 36, N Kulasekara not out 3
Extras (lb4, nb1, w10) 15
Total (for 6 wkts, 50 overs) 307
Fall of wkts: 1-57, 2-94, 3-102, 4-172, 5-176, 6-259.
Bowling: Nehra 9-0-62-1, RP 8-0-58-0, Sharma 10-0-67-1, Harbhajan 10-1-37-1, Pathan 7-0-45-1, Yuvraj 3-0-20-0, Raina 3-0-14-1.
D Karthik c Sangakkara b Thushara 16, S Tendulkar c Mendis b Kulasekara 27, R Dravid b Mathews 47, Yuvraj Singh c Sangakkara b Malinga 16, S. Raina c Sangakkara b Mathews 0, MS Dhoni b Mathews 8, Y Pathan c Sangakkara b Mathews 1, Harbhajan Singh b Mathews 4, RP Singh not out 19, A Nehra b Mathews 1,Ishant Sharma c sub b Mendis 13
Extras (b-1, lb-1, w-14) 16
Total (all out; 37.2 ovs) 168
Fall of wkts: 1-32, 2-67, 3-105, 4-108, 5-126, 6-129, 7-130, 8-135, 9-139,168
Bowling: Kulasekara 8-1-35-1, Thushara 6-0-34-1, Malinga 8-0-33-1, Dilshan 2-0-17-0, Mathews 6-0-20-6, Jayasuriya 2-0-5-0, Mendis 5.2-0-22-1