A thriller for sure

Ishant Sharma’s four-wicket haul won him the Man of the Match award.-AP

Ishant Sharma was in the thick of action as India defended 256 with commitment. Over to S. Dinakar.

The Indians held their nerve to record a thrilling victory at the Premadasa Stadium. The contest was a lot closer than the eventual 15-run verdict.

Ishant Sharma emerged the hero at the end of a long gut-wrenching night. The young fast bowler’s composure in the tense conclusive stages was admirable.

The pitch was on the slower side but Ishant thought fast. The lanky paceman realised that he would have to sprinkle his repertoire with variety.

Ishant brought his subtle changes of pace into play. He delivered an effective slower one. He also sent down well-directed yorkers and the sharp off-cutters. The paceman varied his length and used the crease and his height admirably.

He snaffled the influential Sanath Jayasuriya early on and then scalped three more towards the end. Ishant has matured fast and the combative streak in him comes to the fore in critical situations. The Indians, led well by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, defended 256 with commitment. Ishant’s bowling was at the thick of it all.

There were other contributions as well as India gained a 2-0 lead in the five-match Wealthsurance series. Praveen Kumar bowled a compelling first spell of control and subtle movement with the new ball. The paceman has a strong wrist action and is not the easiest of bowlers to pick.

Importantly, the Indians struck early under the lights. The in-form Tillekeratne Dilshan top-edged a pull off Zaheer Khan to fine leg. Sanath Jayasuriya attempted to cut a short and a rather widish ball from Ishant only to find the edge carrying to third man. Kumar Sangakkara was lured into a drive by a full length ball from Praveen that swung away. Tendulkar held a sharp catch at slip.

The Lankans, however, found an unlikely hero in left-hander Thilina Kandamby. The southpaw is a compact no-nonsense batsman with a sound defence and strokes on either side of the wicket.

And the out-of-form skipper, Mahela Jayawardene, decided to pull his weight. Kandamby and Jayawardene added 100 for the fourth wicket. The Lankans were back in the hunt.

Kandamby’s great knock went in vain.-AP

Jayawardene drove Ishant through covers and was looking good for more when a dash of over-confidence led to his downfall. When on 52, Jayawardene decided to venture into an expansive inside out cover-drive against left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. He only succeeded in holing out to Yusuf Pathan at extra cover.

Kandamby carried on the fight with some cultured stroke-making. He was pleasing and sure-footed in his drives and was quick in whipping the ball off his pads.

Chamara Kapugedera rattled a hectic 31. Lanka’s batting Power Play fetched it a whopping 48 runs but Ishant kept finding the breakthoughs. Eventually, Kandamby was left stranded on 93 as the Indians celebrated.

Eariler, Dhoni rightly elected to bat. The fit-again Virender Sehwag blitzed a stroke-filled 42 before being run out. Sachin Tendulkar received yet another rough decision, being adjudged leg-before to a ball from Nuwan Kulasekara that was missing the leg-stump.

Gautam Gambhir delighted for a while before being nailed outside the off-stump by the impressive Farvez Maharoof. Yuvraj Singh held the middle-order together.

The punishing left-hander played Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis off the front foot and attempted to play the spinners off the hand. Yuvraj, rightly, played Mendis straight and in front of his pads.

When the opportunity arose, he drove powerfully. Yuvraj progressed to 66 and looked good for more when he was, wrongly, adjudged leg-before to Kulasekara. He had edged the ball — a big nick at that — on to his pads.

The Indians lost momentum towards the end — the batting Power Play fetched the side just 14 runs with Muralitharan bowling a stunning maiden — but some useful hitting by Zaheer and Praveen took the total beyond the 250-run mark. The score proved enough — only just — for the Indians. There was a moment of concern during the Sri Lankan innings when play had to be held up when someone from the crowd threw an object at Ishant Sharma.

And there was a moment of great sportsmanspirit when Dhoni edged one down the leg-side off Maharoof and walked.

In the night and under the floodlights, Ishant walked away with the Man of the Match award.

The scores

Second one-dayer, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, January 31. India won by 15 runs.

India: V. Sehwag (run out) 42; S. R. Tendulkar lbw b Kulasekara 6; G. Gambhir c Sangakkara b Maharoof 27; Yuvraj Singh lbw b Kulasekara 66; S. K. Raina c Kapugedera b Dilshan 29; M. S. Dhoni c Sangakkara b Maharoof 23; Y. K. Pathan (run out) 21; Zaheer Khan c Dilshan b Mendis 17; Praveen Kumar c Jayawardene b Mendis 15; P. P. Ojha (not out) 0; Extras (lb 1, w 8, nb 1) 10; Total (for nine wkts. in 50 overs) 256.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-62, 3-83, 4-168, 5-180, 6-219, 7-223, 8-256, 9-256.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 9-0-61-2; Thushara 8-0-59-0; Maharoof 10-0-40-2; Mendis 10-0-44-2; Muralitharan 10-1-32-0; Dilshan 3-0-19-1.

Sri Lanka: T. M. Dilshan c Sharma b Khan 8; S. T. Jayasuriya c Ojha b Sharma 17; K. C. Sangakkara c Tendulkar b Kumar 4; D. P. M. D. Jayawardene c Pathan b Ojha 52; S. H. T. Kandamby (not out) 93; C. K. Kapugedera c Dhoni b Sharma 31; M. F. Maharoof b Sharma 7; T. Thushara c Pathan b Sharma 7; M. Muralitharan (run out) 3; K. M. D. N. Kulasekara (run out) 1; B. A. W. Mendis (run out) 0; Extras (b 4, lb 4, w 10) 18; Total (in 49.2 overs) 241.

Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-33, 3-36, 4-136, 5-187, 6-206, 7-228, 8-236, 9-237.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 10-0-56-1; Praveen Kumar 8.2-1-22-1; Ishant Sharma 10-1-57-4; Ojha 7-0-39-1; Y. Pathan 5-0-21-0; Sehwag 5-0-19-0; Raina 4-0-19-0.