India romped into the final of the Tri-Nation Tournament in Bangladesh with a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka last night. After dismissing the Sri Lankans, who had already qualified for Wednesday's final, for 213, India cruised home in just 32.4 overs. They also got a bonus point for the quick win, which renders their game against Bangladesh today meaningless.
Dinesh Karthik, replacing Virender Sehwag for India, got the team off to a flying start, smashing Chanaka Welegedara for two consecutive boundaries in the third over and creaming three on the trot in the eight bowled by Thilan Thushara. In between, he played some exquisite flicks through the onside off Suranga Lakmal, but fell short two short of his half-century, caught behind off Thushara. Karthik, however, had put India firmly on the road to victory, with 86 runs coming from the first 10 overs. After that the only interest centred around whether they could reach the target inside 40 overs to get a bonus point and score some psychological points ahead of the final. And they managed it in much less.
The scoring rate did drop considerably after Karthik's departure and the boundaries dried up too. From the 11th over to the 22nd, there was not a single hit to the fence, but after the blazing start, there was no need for any impetuosity. Gautam Gambhir benefited from two dropped catches as he made 71 from 85 deliveries, but his innings ended in a soft dismissal, when he got a leading edge while trying to turn Thissara Perera off his pads. India still needed 63 runs at that stage and Virat Kohli, who helped add 72 for the second wicket with Gambhir, got most of them through a flurry of boundaries, making his fourth 50-plus score in five innings.
Earlier, stung by their captain MS Dhoni's criticism in the last game, the Indian bowlers came back with a vengeance to bowl out Sri Lanka in 46.1 overs. Zaheer Khan, who was clobbered for 43 in six overs by Bangladesh, was the pick, taking three for 38 in 10 overs. At one time, Zaheer's figured read 6-2-11-2 as he sent back the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, a centurion in the last match.
Before Zaheer's two successes, Sudeep Tyagi had got Upul Tharanga edging to first slip. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, returning for his second spell, then caught Thilan Samaraweera in front of the wicket and Sri Lanka had slipped from 42-1 in 5.2 overs to 61-4 in 10.2. Two overs later, Thilina Kandamby was run out and Thissara Perera soon followed, reducing Sri Lanka to 84 for six by the 19th over. Kumar Sangakkara and Suraj Randiv stopped the rot, adding 59 runs for the seventh wicket before the captain top-edged Yuvraj Singh to Suresh Raina.
Randiv, however, carried his team past 200, adding 59 runs more for the eighth wicket with Thushara, but the target was way short of posing any challenges to India. A delighted Dhoni said: "This was the best fielding performance in the last 12 months." He also had a word of praise for his batsmen saying: "Dinesh began superbly well. Virat has been very consistent." Man of the match Zaheer said: "I just stuck to the basics. The plan with Dilshan was to put two fielders on the deep on the on-side and cramp him for room. This was a good confidence booster for me. I hope MS wins the toss in the final."
The Sri Lanka captain Sangakkara said: "I don't think we learnt much from batting first. We always looked to score runs. We tried not to get too far ahead of ourselves. We know we're far better than this." @Email:email@example.com
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga c Karthik b Tyagi 0 Tillakaratne Dilshan c Gambhir b Khan 33 Kumar Sangakkara c Raina b Yuvraj 68 Mahela Jayawardene c Kohli b Khan 5 Thilan Samaraweera lbw b Sreesanth 0 Thilina Kandamby run out 1 Thissara Perera c Singh b Mishra 11 Suraj Randiv b Mishra 56 Thilan Thushara c Yuvraj b Khan 28 Chanaka Welegedara st Dhoni b Mishra 1 Suranga Lakmal not out 0 Extras: (3lb, 6w, 1nb) 10 TOTAL: (all out, 46.1 overs) 213 Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-42, 3-60, 4-61, 5-66, 6-84, 7-143, 8-202, 9-209. Bowling: Sudeep Tyagi 7-1-46-1 Shanthakumaran Sreesanth 7-0-38-1 (1w) Zaheer Khan 10-2-38-3 Amit Mishra 9.1-1-40-3 (1nb, 3w) Ravindra Jadeja 6-1-21-0 (1w) Yuvraj Singh 4-0-18-1 (1w) Suresh Raina 3-0-9-0. India: Dinesh Karthik c Sangakkara b Thushara 48 Gautam Gambhir c Welegedara b Perera 71 Virat Kohli not out 71 Yuvraj Singh not out 7 Extras: (4lb, 2w, 9nb) 16 TOTAL: (2 wickets, 32.3 overs) 213 Fall of wickets: 1-89, 2-161 Bowling: Chanaka Welegedara 5.3-0-51-0 (2nb) R Lakmal 10-0-75-0 (3nb, 1w) Thilan Thushara 6-0-33-1 (1w) Suraj Randiv 6-0-19-0 Thissara Perera 5-1-32-1