Twenty20 cricket is often about hammer and tongs but Kumar Sangakkara took batting to a different plane. In a fine exhibition of aggressive batting, the Lankan captain hammered the Indian bowling attack to score a splendid 78 in 37 balls, taking Lanka to a massive 215 for five.
In the end, it proved 29 runs too many, as India finished with 186 for nine after 20 overs. Incidentally, it was India’s fourth loss in a row in T20 internationals.
Sangakkara played a blistering knock and scripted a valuable fourth-wicket partnership of 69 runs with Chamara Kapugedara (47), which came in just 5.3 overs in the fag end of the innings. In the final overs, Anjelo Mathews used the long handle with deadly effect, scoring 15 runs from just four balls.
The captain, who got run out on the last ball of the match, led from the front and other batsmen pitched in with valuable contributions. Sangakkara, in his innings, scored 11 fours and 2 sixes and won the man-of-the-match award for his brilliant effort. The Lankan innings, which was a magnificent run feast, included 29 boundaries and 5 sixes.
In reply, India started off well, with openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag putting 32 on board in 2.5 overs. Just when they were looking to come up with a big partnership, seamer Nuwan Kulasekhara provided the Lankans with the breakthrough. He had Sehwag caught at deep point for a 14-ball 26.
Gambhir was in a murderous mood, piercing off-side at will. He pulverized the Lankan bowling attack with a barrage of shots. He creamed Kulasekhara for three boundaries in the fifth over and then raced off to a 19-ball half-century, second quickest, to provide a great start to India’s run chase.
But the opener played a shot too many and perished. Angelo Mathews removed him with a fuller delivery, knocking off his stumps in the ninth over.
In the next over, Jayasuriya struck, sending back captain MS Dhoni (9), who had come at number three to keep the momentum going for his team.
Thereafter, the Indian middle order returned to the pavilion in a procession. Five wickets fell in just 22 balls and India crumbled from 93 for 1 to 115 for 6. Later, Suresh Raina (21) and Ashish Nehra (22) played breezy cameos but it was too late by then. The humiliation was complete when India could only manage 186 for nine after 20 overs.
All-rounders Sanath Jayasuriya and Angelo Mathews turned it around by bowling some tight line. Both picked up a couple of wickets to send India crashing.
Earlier, the Lankan plan was to see off the first few overs and then go after the bowlers. Sri Lanka’s explosive opening pair of Tillakaratne Dilshan (34) and Sanath Jayasuriya (26) did just that.
First, it was left-hander Jayasuriya who stepped on the gas and went after seamer Ashish Nehra. He clobbered the bowler for five boundaries, scoring a massive 22 runs from the over. The duo put together 43 runs in just 6.2 overs before Jayasuriya got out for 26 off 20 balls. Ishant Sharma took the catch of Jayasuriya off debutant Ashok Dinda’s second delivery of his fledgling career.
Riding his fine form, Sangakkara started from where Jayasuriya had left. In fact, he took it few notches up. He welcomed Pragyan Ojha with two consecutive fours and a six to score 17 runs off the over.
He lofted bowlers effortlessly on the on side to exploit the gap between long-on and mid-wicket and runs came pouring in. The Lankan captain reached his half-century off just 21 balls, emulating the Lankan fastest-fifty record of Mahela Jayawardene.
Fielding is another department where India disappointed. Players often fumbled in cleanly picking up the ball and dropped as many as four catches. First it was Yuvraj Singh who dropped a sitter to let off Jayasuriya and later fast bowler Ishant Sharma dropped a couple of dollies.