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Dhoni, Raina guide India to final

MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina hit sparkling half-centuries to inspire India to the final with a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka, reports Subhash Rajta.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2008 02:19 IST
Subhash Rajta

Batsmen have not let India down so far in the tournament. And they fired on Thursday too, guiding India to a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka to earn a berth in the Asia Cup final.

India's victory also brought the curtains down on Pakistan's hopes of making it to the title-clash.

This Indian batting line-up is generally about flair most of the times, but on Thursday, it showed it could grind as well, depending on the situation. Chasing 308, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir yet again gave India a rousing start, putting on 92 runs for the first wicket, till Sehwag got out after compiling a quickfire 42.

While his dismissal disturbed the momentum, the run rate slowed down further with the introduction of Muttiah Muralitharan, with Gambhir and Raina, finding it tough to score off the off-spinner. With Muralitharan on song, India skipper, M.S. Dhoni's ploy to walk in ahead of Yuvraj Singh proved to be a smart move as it denied the Lankan a chance to bowl at two lefthanders.

Dhoni might not be as attractive as many other Indian batsmen, but when it comes to effectiveness and handling pressure, there are few who can match him. He just cut down on all adventurous strokes, keeping the scoreboard ticking through singles and twos.

The presence of a calm and composed Dhoni's presence rubbed off on Raina as well, who looked jittery at the start. With Dhoni anchoring the chase from the other end, Raina calmed down as the duo put on 99 runs for the fourth wicket. But just when it seemed the duo would run away with the game came a twist in the tale, thanks to the dismissals of Dhoni (67) and Raina (54) in quick succession. Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma, however, guided India home without any further hiccups.

Earlier, the Indian bowlers finally showed some spunk, after being at the receiving end for most part of the series. RP Singh, brought back into the side in place of Yousuf Pathan, gave India a good start with Ishant Sharma --- the Delhi pacer dismissed the dangerous Sangakkara at the start, and followed that with the wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya.

Mahela Jayawardena (50), Kapugadera (76) and Chamara Silva (50), stroked half centuries, but the Indian bowlers didn't allow them to break free at any stage and restricted them to an achievable total.