Timely Knock:Dinesh Karthik chose to hit form at the best possible moment as he helped India to a total of 268 against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final. The opener made 66 off 84 balls to give India a good start.
Dambulla: India swiftly erased a Sri Lankan dream at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium here on Thursday night. Pursuing a title hat-trick, defending champion Sri Lanka crumbled in the chase and India won the Asia Cup.
In a final that was headed just one-way after Sri Lanka was reduced to 51 for five while trailing India's 268 for six in 50 overs, M.S. Dhoni's men scored steady runs and scythed through the host's top-order to make it a no-contest. India won by 81 runs to claim a title that it won last in 1995. Sri Lanka scored 187 in 44.4 overs.
Sri Lanka never recovered from a steady fall of wickets right from the moment, Tillakaratne Dilshan tamely popped up a catch off Praveen Kumar. Worse was to follow when Upul Tharanga shouldered arms to Zaheer Khan while skipper Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, for once failed to brave a crisis.
Ashish Nehra (four for 40), a pale shadow in the earlier matches, sprung back to life and forced Jayawardene to fish outside off-stump.
Nehra's night of joy continued as Mathews chased a wide delivery and Sangakkara pulled without punch. Thilina Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera (55 n.o.) with a dogged 54-run sixth-wicket partnership and Nuwan Kulasekara's powerful blows, only managed to delay the inevitable defeat.
Earlier, every time the Indian batsmen threatened to cut loose, a wicket fell to stymie the steady run-flow. All the Indian batsmen got their starts, but only Dinesh Karthik, atop the order and Rohit Sharma, in the closing stages of the innings, planted their feet firmly.
Factoring in the pressure of chasing in a cup final on a ground with below-par lights, Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni opted to take first strike on winning the toss. India missed a solid opening partnership despite Gautam Gambhir and Karthik tiding past the first five overs. A busy Karthik (66, 84b, 9x4) guided and cut the ball for fours against Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga. Not to be outdone and playing his 100th ODI, Gambhir unfurled a silken drive against Malinga and watched a chip-and-charge edge of Kulasekara pop out of a leaping Kandamby at first slip. Gambhir though failed to capitalise and was soon left stranded by Upul Tharanga's throw.
Karthik continued unhindered and the opener gritted through Angelo Mathews's tight first over and enjoyed his reprieve on 46 when Farveez Maharoof failed to latch on to the catch in his follow-through. Karthik had a brief ally in Virat Kohli, who like his earlier stints in the tournament, flickered and faded while adding 62 runs for the second wicket.
Malinga, the pick among the Sri Lankan bowlers, nudged out Kohli with a short-pitched delivery. Dhoni then partnered Karthik and the Indian skipper loosened up against Maharoof and Muralitharan with clouts over mid-wicket. Another stumble was around the corner as Karthik, after bracing past Malinga's classic decoy – a bouncer followed by the yorker – miscued a slog sweep off Kandamby, who later prised out Dhoni to land a double blow on the Indians.
At 167 for four in 32.2 overs, the onus on shoring up the innings rested on Rohit (41, 52b, 3x4) and Suresh Raina and the two contributed a 50-run fifth-wicket partnership. Raina remained tentative against Malinga's bouncer while Rohit stood tall and hooked fine. Raina gained his breath against spin before losing his way against Malinga and the beefy strikes failed to materialise once Rohit perished in the slog overs.
India however managed a competitive total, which acquired an alarming proportion after the seamers struck in tandem under lights.
For Sri Lanka, the failure of its last match hero – Maharoof – was symbolic of a day on which its best laid plans were in tatters.
Dinesh Karthik was selecyed ‘Man of the Match', and Shahid Afridi the ‘Player of the tournament'.
India: G. Gambhir (run out) 15 (16b, 2x4), D. Karthik c Jayawardene b Kandamby 66 (84b, 9x4), V. Kohli c Sangakkara b Malinga 28 (34b, 4x4), M.S. Dhoni c Kulasekara b Kandamby 38 (50b, 2x4, 1x6), Rohit Sharma c Maharoof b Kulasekara 41 (52b, 3x4), S. Raina lbw b Malinga 29 (31b, 3x4), R. Jadeja (not out) 25 (27b, 1x4), Harbhajan Singh (not out) 7 (7b). Extras (b-2, lb-7, w-9, nb-1): 19. Total (for six wkts., in 50 overs): 268.
Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-100, 3-146, 4-167, 5-217, 6-249.
Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 9-0-44-1, Malinga 10-0-57-2, Maharoof 6-0-41-0, Mathews 3-1-16-0, Muralitharan 10-0-34-0, Kandamby 7-0-37-2, Dilshan 5-0-30-0.
Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga b Zaheer 16 ( 30b, 1x4), T. Dilshan c Harbhajan b Praveen 0 ( 2b), K. Sangakkara c Zaheer b Nehra 17 ( 38b, 2x4), M. Jayawardene c Dhoni b Nehra 11 ( 19b, 1x4), A. Mathews c Dhoni b Nehra 0 ( 2b), T. Kandamby (run out) 31 ( 45b, 2x4), C. Kapugedara (not out) 55 ( 88b, 4x4, 1x6), F. Maharoof c Dhoni b Zaheer 10 ( 14b, 1x4), N. Kulasekara st. Dhoni b Jadeja 20 ( 16b, 4x4), S. Malinga c Jadeja b Nehra 7 ( 11b, 1x4), M. Muralitharan c Dhoni b Jadeja 2 ( 5b); Extras (b-4, lb-3, w-9, nb-2) 18; Total (in 44.4 overs) 187.
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-31, 3-50, 4-50, 5-51, 6-104, 7-132, 8-168, 9-177.
India bowling: Praveen 9-1-29-1, Zaheer 8-2-36-2, Nehra 9-0-40-4, Harbhajan 9-0-30-0, Kohli 3-0-16-0, Jadeja 6.4-0-29-2 .
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