This time, India made sure they finished what they started. In the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka here on Wednesday, India were in a spot of bother again. But unlike Rajkot, where they let things slip, captain Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni got together and calmly chased down 230 to win by five wickets.
When the two joined hands here at the Nehru Stadium, India were at an unsteady 91 for 4. Together, they ran their singles and twos furiously. When victory seemed in sight with 49 runs to get from 60 balls, the singles gave way to fours and a big six by Dravid over long-on. The duo put on 133 runs at almost six-an-over until Dravid (66 runs, 4x4, 16x) was tragically run out by a Dhoni straight drive, which deflected off Malinga Bandara's hands on to the stumps.
Out came Dinesh Karthik and knocked off the remaining four runs casually. Dhoni remained unbeaten — as he often does at the end of a chase — on 67 (74 balls, 4x4). The credit for the win must also go to man of the match, Zaheer Khan, who earlier in the day, laid the tacks that punctured Lanka's progress. His figures of 5-42 are his best in ODIs, bettering his 4-19 against Bangladesh some years ago.
Zaheer's first spell left Lanka gasping at 6 for 3 in the fifth over — he got Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara for 2, 1 and 0 respectively. The visitors hardly got going after that.
FIRST HOUR DID THE TRICK
The match was delayed by 30 minutes after dew left the playing surface and outfield wet. The pitch had traces of grass, and as it turned out, the bounce was uneven too. Zaheer exploited these conditions exemplarily.
In his second over, he bounced Jayasuriya, whose attempt at a hook caused the ball to balloon behind square-leg. Sourav Ganguly ran back and flung himself to pull off a stunner. Sri Lanka 5 for 1.
Three balls later, Tharanga played back to one that stayed slow, and was trapped plumb in front. Lanka 5 for 2. In Zaheer's next over, Sangakkara knocked one on to his stumps. 6 for 3.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene and his predecessor Marvan Atapattu did some damage control, adding 75 runs. But Munaf, who was introduced into the attack as first change, had Atapattu mistiming a chip to Sachin Tendulkar at square-leg. Ten runs later, Jayawardene departed, trapped leg-before to one from Harbhajan Singh that stayed low. Some quick running and well-timed hitting from Tillakratne Dilshan and Russel Arnold helped Lanka inch towards 200. While Zaheer came back to dismiss Ferveez Maharoof and Malinga Bandara to complete his fiver, Arnold anchored the innings, and after their initial struggle, 230 was a good recovery.
SEHWAG FAILS AGAIN
Ferveez Maharoof started nervously with the new ball. His first four balls were wides, and then Virender Sehwag pinched two fours off him. Sehwag sliced another four in the next over off Dilhara Fernando, but fell tamely soon after.
Worse, Sachin Tendulkar who came out one-down, played one on to his stumps off Nuwan Kulasekara. But Lanka had to deal with Ganguly, who’s been in imperious touch of late.
Ganguly blazed six fours before falling for 48. Importantly for India, he never looked out of place — he was driving like a dream and wasn't afraid to loft the ball. But with him gone, the stage was set for Dravid and Dhoni to pace the chase like they know best.