Indians toss and turn as Lankans party
Another final, one more failure. This is turning out to be a bit of a disease, and no one seems to have a remedy.
Having restricted Sri Lanka to 228 for nine — gettable with some application — India floundered mentally and technically, handing the 2004 Asia Cup to the hosts.
And irrespective of whatever bravado Sourav Ganguly puts forth, the toss does make a huge difference at the Premadasa. But after holding the rivals down to a manageable total, the manner in which the match was given away was pathetic.
The Indian effort finally was a painful 203 for nine off 50 overs, thanks mainly to Sachin Tendulkar's dogged 74, and some long handle work by Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh towards the end.
India duly brought back VVS Laxman for Parthiv Patel, and they took the gamble of playing three left-arm medium-pacers, as Ashish Nehra replaced Anil Kumble. For Sri Lanka, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas made a predictable return, Saman Jayantha and Lasith Malinga making way for them.
This is the first time that three left-arm fasts have played together for India.
The opening stand was a disaster as it has been all through the tournament. Virender Sehwag once again was rooted to the ground as Vaas trapped him. Ganguly too went early, playing way too far from his body to Nuwan Zoysa, Mahela Jayawardene bringing off a fine catch.
The Lankan bowlers wrapped a huge stranglehold around the Indian batsmen. It was impossible to get Vaas and Zoysa away after the initial setbacks and the batsmen struggled to keep the board moving. It got worse when the slow bowlers came on. Defending a moderate total, the hosts fielded like tigers as that and fine catching kept India on the backfoot throughout.
Atapattu deployed all his spinners — Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Chandana and Tillakaratne Dilshan — and not one of them could the Indians get away. Though Tendulkar hoisted Murali for a huge six, the uncertainty and suspicion about the track was all too overpowering for the Indians to conquer.
Only Tendulkar seemed to be able to gauge the pace and bounce of the wicket, which was variable at best, even as several injudicious shots saw the batting fall apart. He got his half-century off 68 balls with five boundaries and a six, but had too little in terms of support from the other batsmen.
VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid were all at sea, and their dismissals were in consonance with the way all the batters struggled. Sadly, Yuvraj Singh, who has been impressive throughout, also fell in this heap.
The most imbecilic shot, however, was played by Mohammed Kaif, whose only job should have been to keep Tendulkar company. Instead, he went for glory and met disaster. For a man who has done precious little throughout the tournament, this was a golden chance, and he wasted it. Tendulkar left soon after, and that was that.
A huge roar went up here in the afternoon as Atapattu called correctly. In a tournament where the toss has played such a vital role, it was understandable that the home crowd was pleased that their side would bat first.
By the end of the innings however, they managed just 228, thanks mainly to some fine slow bowling by the part-timers. Tendulkar bowled his 10 overs for two wickets at the cost of 40 runs. Sehwag bowled 10 straight and had fine figures of one for 32 with two maidens. Though Harbhajan Singh went for 48 off his 10 overs, he bowled a fine restrictive line and length at the fag end of the innings.
Sanath Jayasuriya went early but Atapattu has no intentions of letting this one go, and Kumar Sangakkara was determined to make up for his poor form of the last contest between the two sides.
The shots began raining as the right-left combination made the Indians stretch and dive. Not that there was no luck for the batsmen, since Laxman dropped a regulation catch off Zaheer to give Sangakkara one life, and then substitute Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rahul Dravid made a hash of an easy run-out.