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Indian team blazes a new trail

After Agarkar's incisive spell of five for 44, Rao, Dhoni, Raina reveal a new, exciting facet of Indian cricket, writes Amol Karhadkar.Full Scorecard

india Updated: Nov 04, 2005 11:30 IST

Ajit Agarkar's five-wicket haul and an unbeaten 82-run seventh wicket stand between Mahendra Singh Dhoni (45 in 43 balls) and super-sub Suresh Raina (39 in 30) helped India finish on a high note, winning the fourth one-dayer against Sri Lanka by four wickets with 26 balls to spare. India have now taken an unassailable 4-0 lead in the seven-match series.

Chasing a respectable target of 262, India did not get an ideal start on Thursday. The first three overs saw only one run on the scoreboard, that too off a no ball by Chaminda Vaas. Sachin Tendulkar mistimed a hook off Fernando, which sailed over the third man fence, and then charged down the wicket to Vaas, only to see his off-stump rolling back a few feet. Yuvraj Singh failed to make full use of the opportunity to play at the No.3 slot and drove Nuwan Zoysa to Dilhan. Virender Sehwag was lucky at the other end, being dropped twice -- by Muralitharan off Vaas on eight and by Sangakkara off Zoysa on 20. Sehwag then added 78 off 70 with Dravid to steady the ship for India.

India were sitting pretty at 169 for three after 30 overs, with Dravid and Y Venugopala Rao set to steer India to a victory. However, they were reduced to 180 for six in the 35th over, giving Sri Lanka an advantage.

Rao edged a Muttiah Muralitharan doosra to wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara on the last ball of the 31st over, but not before playing a crucial cameo that included a six over the point off paceman Farveez Maharoof.

Dravid then played an uncharacteristic stroke as he pulled a Dilhara Fernando delivery straight into the hands of Chaminda Vaas at fine leg as India were reduced to five for 180 after 34 overs. Three balls later, Irfan Pathan, promoted after shining with the bat in Nagpur, edged Muralitharan to Sangakkara behind the stumps to depart without scoring. TV replays later showed that the ball did not come off the bat.With three wickets falling in 27 balls with the addition of just 10 runs, Raina came as a replacement for Sreesanth. And the southpaw did not let the pressure pile on him or Dhoni at the other end. The duo focused on running quick singles and twos, which helped keep the required run rate below six.

With 12 runs needed to win, Dhoni hit off-spinner Russel Arnold for two successive sixes over long-on to round off a convincing victory for India in the 46th over and seal the series for India. Earlier, after being put into bat, the Sri Lankan top order once again failed to deliver. While Pathan was the destroyer in Mohali, it was Agarkar's turn this time around, with the Mumbai speedster returning with his best figures in India (5 for 44 off 9.5).

After carrying the bat in Jaipur on Monday, Sangakkara (8 off 10) was trapped leg-before by Agarkar in the fourth over. Sanath Jayasuriya, who has had a disappointing series, followed him shortly. Jayasuriya was plumb in front off Agarkar after scoring a quick 16 off 17 balls, which included three boundaires to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 36 for two in the sixth over. Another left-hander Upul Tharanga, who replaced Mahela Jayawardene, was the next to return to the pavilion just as he was looking set for a big one, edging Sreesanth to Agarkar at third man. Skipper Marvan Atapattu then steadied the ship along with Tillekeratne Dilshan, the duo adding 97 off 113 balls to take Sri Lanka to 148 in 29 overs.

Looking set for a big score, Sri Lanka lost their way with Harbhajan Singh spoiling the party for the visitors. The turbanator got rid of danger man Dilshan and restricted Atapattu and Arnold from accelerating the scoring rate. Agarkar then reverse-swung the ball and Sri Lanka lost their last six wickets adding only 30 runs.

First Published: Nov 04, 2005 11:21 IST