Efficient and ruthless

Mahela Jayawardene showed his class with a superb century.-PICS: K.R. DEEPAK

It was no surprise that India cantered to a six-wicket win, as openers Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan batted well again to give the team a good start. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

India’s preparations for the 2015 World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand next February, seems to be going on well. The Indians gleefully accepted the Sri Lankan offer to play a five-match One-day series at home, to fill in the void, after the West Indies had pulled out halfway through its tour. But, the southern sub-continent neighbour has fast turned out to be a mismatch for the seemingly imposing Indians in familiar home conditions.

It is not irrelevant to point out here the Sri Lankan spin-bowling coach, Roger Wijesuriya’s pre-match comments, when asked if his team lacked the spirit to play the on-going series. “We were actually focussing on physical conditioning, even as some of the players were busy against the West Indies-A team. So, when the decision was made to tour India, we did not have enough time to prepare for it,” he said.

Even the presence of three of the finest batsmen in recent times — Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan — seemed to have little bearing on the overall Lankan performance.

In the third One-dayer, the Lankans were in a must-win situation to keep the series alive, after losing the first two games. Strangely, Sri Lanka elected to bat in overcast conditions, which were duly exploited by Indian fast bowler Umesh Yadav, whose confidence level should have a got a big shot in the arm, as he returned with a four-wicket haul.

The manner of the dismissals will give Umesh a lot of confidence ahead of the tour Down Under, where the conditions will be more favourable. The way he squared up Kusal Perera and Kumar Sangakkara in the opening spell was a treat to watch, as he registered his best ODI figures.

Umesh Yadav picked up his first four-wicket haul in ODIs.-

However, medium-pacer Dhawal Kulkarni, playing in place of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, was a disappointment, as he failed to hit the right line and length. But again, it was the left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who continued to torment the Sri Lankans, bowling impressively, particularly during the batting power-play and picking up three wickets for 11 runs in three overs. A near-perfect line and length, and the willingness to test the batsmen with flight and loop were the striking features of his spell.

Sri Lanka posted only a moderate score of 242 in 48.2 overs, despite a brilliant century by Mahela Jayawardene, as the other batsmen, with the exception of Tillakaratne Dilshan, failed to rise to the occasion.

Jayawardene, with his 17th ODI century in his 426th match, became the fifth batsman in the world to score 12,000 runs in ODIs. Dilshan was the only other Lankan batsmen to score a half-century and it was a pity that others failed to capitalise on a batsman-friendly wicket.

It was no surprise that India cantered to a six-wicket win, as openers Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan batted well again to give the team a good start. Dhawan came close to scoring his second ton of the series, before perishing to a doubtful decision on 91 — declared out caught behind, while taking evasive action to a short-pitched ball from Nuwan Kulasekara.

With captain Virat Kohli striking a belligerent half-century, the Lankan defeat came swiftly. The Sri Lankan bowlers looked ordinary and none of them threatened to test the Indian batsmen.

For Kohli it was double delight — winning the One-day series as captain and also becoming the fastest batsman in the world to score 6000 runs (136th innings in his 144th match).

He beat the earlier record of the great West Indian Vivian Richards, who had reached the milestone in his 156th match and 141st innings.

Dhawan, too, had reasons to be delighted, as he became the fastest Indian to score 2000 runs in ODIs. He scored them in his 48th innings (49 matches), beating the previous record held jointly by Navjot Singh Sindhu and Sourav Ganguly (52 innings).

The drubbing in Hyderabad was another grim reminder for the Lankan think-tank that the team needs to put in a lot of hard work in the run-up to the World Cup.