This will be remembered as a game in which the wicketkeepers from both sides tried to make a difference. But in the end, Sri Lanka’s Kumara Sangakkara (110) laughed last and longest, even as MS Dhoni’s (48) effort went in vain.
The visitors unexpectedly took a tense thriller off the last ball, by a five-run margin but it could have been anyone’s game, almost till the end.
India, chasing 257, had three wickets in hand and needed 11 off the last over when Kumble was run out first ball.
Two dot balls later, the Indians were sweating when Dhoni smashed a boundary straight down the ground.
Unfortunately, with six required off the last two balls, he fell to Jayasuriya, holing out while attempting to end matters. With six needed off the last ball, Sreesanth failed to connect a widish one and the Sri Lankans congregated in the middle of the Madhavrao Scindia Stadium in unalloyed celebration.
Earlier, after Rahul Dravid put Sri Lanka in on a grassy wicket, Munaf Patel came into his own to end up with an impressive four wickets.
He did not appear overtly excited with the favourable conditions and stuck to his basics, bowling wicket to wicket, while Sreesanth might have been under pressure but bowled a good spell, getting good lift off the wicket. His seam placement was near perfect but he was prone to bowling that one loose ball every over that gave away a few runs. Overall though, despite Tendulkar’s excellent effort, India were clearly a bowler short.
And Sangakkara was in a different class on the day as he added 108 for the fifth wicket with Tillakaratne Dilshan, to guide his team from a precarious 58 for four to a comfortable 257 for eight.
They started watchfully but once they had an eye in, both cut loose especially when Harbhajan and Kumble came on.
With the spinners not getting bite from the wicket, they were in for some runs. But even given that, Kumble was largely unimpressive, bowling either too short or too full.
Dilshan started the acceleration and kept at it till Harbhajan’s doosra clipped the right hander’s off-stump. But Sangakkara wasn’t done and started giving the ball a few lessons in high-flying, sending it over the fence four times, including one in Kumble’s over, the 48th of the innings, which brought his hundred. He got one more in Munaf’s next over but fell short the next time, holing out to a diving Sehwag at long on.
Unfortunately for Sehwag, that great catch was the high point of his game as he didn’t really do anything to get his many critics to give him a break.
But then again, other Indian stalwarts also had an off day. Robin Uthappa and Dravid both fell very early and it took an effort of old from a familiar pair to bring India back.
A third wicket stand of 100 between Sachin Tendulkar (54) and Sourav Ganguly (61), a brilliant exhibition of counter attacking cricket.
Tendulkar singled out a wayward Malinga for some classic shots on the square on both sides of the wickets. He hit five fours of the bowler, who went for 51 runs without a wicket from his initial spell of five overs.
However, the introduction of leg-spinner Malinga Bandara stemmed the flow and Tendulkar was eventually stumped as he wrong footed a cover drive and missed it.
Ganguly was caught behind when after hitting Kulasekara for a straight six, got out caught behind when fishing for a Malinga delivery pitched wide outside off-stump.
Later, a 66-run stand between Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik had India breathing again. But Karthik got out with 23 still needed and Dhoni could not find the wherewithal to finish it off.
Rahul Dravid (capt), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Dinesh Kartik, Shantakumaran Sreesanth and Anil Kumble. 12th: Ajit Agarkar
Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Marvan Atapattu, Russel Arnold, Tilekaratne Dilshan, Farvez Maharoof, Malinga Bandara, Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara.
Umpires: Simon Taufel and Suresh Shastri