After missing out by an agonizing margin in Rajkot, Sri Lanka made amends in Nagpur. The islanders held their nerve and emerged victorious by three wickets, chasing down India’s 301 to level the five-match series one all.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was once again the hero for Sri Lanka as he notched up his sixth ODI century and second of the series. His sparkling 123-run knock came off 113 deliveries with the help of a dozen hits to the fence and two mammoth sixes. His brilliant knock made him an obvious choice for the player of the match award.
While Dilshan laid the foundation for the win, it was Angelo Mathews who held his nerve with an unbeaten 37 off 25 balls to see Lankan through.
Chasing a competitive 302, Sri Lanka were right on target. Openers Upul Tharanga and Dilshan got Sri Lanka off to a flier, bringing the hundred up in 80 balls.
Dilshan begun his pounding by thwacking a couple of balls over the bowler’s head and pulling his way to blistering boundaries. He was at his destructive best, as he smashed his way to a 31-ball half-century.
India were successful in breaking the ominous partnership when a flighted Harbhajan delivery settled into Sehwag’s hand in the slip after kissing Tharanga’s bat.
But Dilshan continued to charge down the track and affected ferocious cuts and drives as he lusted his way towards the target. India’s fielding finally came good when a mix-up between Dilshan and Sangakkara resulted in the run-out of the Lankan skipper.
Dilshan marched forward, undeterred. After bludgeoning his way to the 80s, he turned into a collector, batting with patience and responsibility to get to his 100.
The Indian bowlers came back well after being slaughtered by Dilshan in the first 20 overs. They kept things tight and made sure the Lankans didn’t cruise to victory with ease. The second hundred of the Lankan innings came at a run-rate of five an over as compared to the seven and a half runs with which they openers notched up the first century.
The mounting run-rate and pressure created by the Indian bowlers finally caused Dilshan’s demise. Nehra produced a beautiful yorker to end the brilliant innings.
Zaheer struck gold by dismissing Mahela Jayawardene first ball of his new spell. The match hung in balance with Sri Lanka needing 64 off the last 10 overs, six men standing.
Kandamby and Mathews kept their cool and concentrated on rotating the strike, avoiding undue risks. Indians lost the plot as they failed to put to keep the pressure up and conceded easy runs through singles and couples.
The visitors opted to take the batting powerplay with 40 runs needed off 36 balls. The field restrictions worked for India as Zaheer got rid of Kandamby and Kapugedara in the first over. While Virat held a stunner to dismiss the well-set Kandamby, Kapugedara was yorked by a fiery Zaheer.
The contest culminated in a thrilling climax as the visitors required 19 off the last three overs. Harbhajan affected a direct-hit to send Randiv back to the pavilion. But Mathews continued to fight back as wickets tumbled at the other end. Dhoni lobbed the ball to Nehra in the penultimate over.
The pacer did a good job until a mis-field by Zaheer spilt water on all the hard work. The gift by Zaheer put Sri Lanka in a comfortable position, needing just one from the last over, which they got with five balls to spare.
Earlier, Indian skipper MS Dhoni combined the power of punches with the art of placement as he paced his 111-ball innings with utter beauty to bat India to a competitive 301. The scintillating knock of 107 was pierced with eight powerful boundaries and two thunderous sixes.
Welegedara got Sri Lanka to a perfect start by getting rid of the dangerous Virender Sehwag off the fourth ball. The Delhi dasher edged a wide delivery, trying to go for a square cut off the back foot, which was brilliantly taken by an airborne Sangakkara.
Sehwag was soon followed by his Delhi mate Gambhir, who was unlucky to get run out owing to a mid-pitch collision with the bowler.
Tendulkar, along with Virat Kohli forged a short fight-back but the resistance was cut short by Ajantha Mendis, as Tendulkar’s attempt to dance down the track to the spinner backfired and the master was stumped by the Lankan skipper.
Virat batted with immense maturity for his 54 runs. He worked hard between the wickets and also played some lovely strokes.
Suresh Raina too contributed with his quick-fire half-century that comprised four boundaries and three meaty blows over the fence. The left-hander stormed his way to a 55-ball 68, before falling to Mathews.