Jayasuriya shines, Lanka fades

Sanath Jayasuriya... a century in vain.-AP

Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis were handled well. The Indian batsmen played the two straighter than squarer, milking the spinners while launching into the occasional big hit. S. Dinakar reports.

Sanath Jayasuriya rolled back the years at the Rangiri Stadium in Dambulla. His stroke-play was bright. His spirit shone even brighter. His 114-ball 107 in a Man-of-the-Match display saw him become the oldest cricketer — at 39 years and 212 days — to notch up an ODI hundred.

Jayasuriya’s fitness levels are astonishing and he remains young at heart. ‘What’s age?’ he seemed to ask as he drove, cut and pulled with typical panache on a scorching afternoon. His 28th ODI century was a rather special one for Jayasuriya.

His powerful wrists and shoulders were on view. His pulls and cuts are no more than short-arm jabs and he requires less room than most batsmen. Yet, the occasion was tinged with sadness as he met the press at the end of the day. "It would have been better had my knock won the match for Sri Lanka," he said.

Indeed, India played the key moments of the first Wealthsurance series ODI at Dambulla better to romp home by six wickets and with 11 balls to spare.

Importantly, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni read the situations well. He expected the pitch to be a seaming one and inserted the Lankans. When he found the surface not offering lateral movement, he brought on left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and also pressed the non-specialist spinners into the fray.

Despite Jayasuriya being fluent from one end, Sri Lanka lost momentum on a surprisingly sluggish pitch at Dambulla. Kumara Sangakkara got into a tangle against Ojha — this was surprising since the southpaws generally play the left-arm spinners well.

On his part, Ojha stuck to the basics and did not quite provide enough opportunities to Sangakkara to whip or drive him with the spin. There was a subtle change in the left-armer’s line while bowling to Sangakkara.

Dhoni led well after, perhaps, erring in opting for Munaf Patel as Zaheer Khan’s new ball partner. Rusty and out of sorts, Munaf struggled with his direction and length against Jayasuriya.

The punishing left-hander creamed Munaf through the covers. Then, Jayasuriya pulled him past the ropes. Munaf did not bowl again in the innings. Dhoni is decisive in his captaincy — he does not believe in that one ‘extra over’ — and is ready to learn from his mistakes.

He had Zaheer and Ishant bowling in tandem when Sri Lanka opted for the batting Power Play in the 39th over. The match witnessed a major momentum shift at this stage. Sri Lanka lost two wickets during the five overs while scoring only 28 runs. One of the scalps was Jayasuriya.

Zaheer and Ishant used the slower deliveries well and bowled a fuller length. The change of pace worked for India in the Power Play. Sri Lanka stumbled.

Farvez Maharoof biffed a 27-ball 35 in the concluding overs, but Sri Lanka fell at least 20 runs short. India, given the depth in its batting, was the favourite to chase down 247 even without the injured Virender Sehwag.

The start of the Indian innings was rather dramatic. Sachin Tendulkar was adjudged leg-before to left-arm paceman Thilan Thushara when the ball had pitched outside the leg-stump.

Then, Gautam Gambhir appeared to have been caught cleanly – in a diving attempt – by bowler Nuwan Kulasekara but the third umpire gave the benefit of doubt to the batsman.

The left-handed second-wicket pair of Gambhir (62) and Suresh Raina (54), with much enterprise, added 113 to lay a solid foundation for India. And the Indians paced their innings well.

But then, the Sri Lankans did not latch on to opportunities. Raina and Gambhir, by Tillekeratne Dilshan at point and Mahela Jayawardene at slip respectively, were put down early in their innings.

Dhoni assumed centre-stage in the final stretch of the pursuit. His bludgeoned straight-drives scorched the turf. This was Power Play in the Power Play overs, taken by India in the 43rd over. And the smooth-stroking Rohit Sharma delighted.

Importantly, Muttiah Muralitharan and Mendis were handled well. The Indian batsmen played the two straighter than squarer, milking the spinners while launching into the occasional big hit.

Mendis was played off the front foot and in front of the pad. Crucially, the Indian innings did not lose momentum in the middle-overs.

Dhoni and his men were worthy winners. The Scores

Dambulla, January 28. India won by six wickets.

Sri Lanka: T. M. Dilshan (run out) 0; S. T. Jayasuriya c Patel b Khan 107; K. C. Sangakkara c Raina b Ojha 44; S. H. T. Kandamby c Khan b I. Sharma 17; M. F. Maharoof b I. Sharma 35; D. P. M. D. Jayawardene c R. Sharma b I. Sharma 11; C. K. Kapugedera (run out) 15; T. Thushara (not out) 12; K. M. D. N. Kulasekara (not out) 0; Extras (w 3, nb 2) 5; Total (for seven wkts., 50 overs) 246.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-118, 3-169, 4-171, 5-204, 6-222, 7-245.

India bowling: Z. Khan 10-2-40-1; M. Patel 5-0-32-0; I. Sharma 10-1-52-3; Ojha 10-0-52-1; Y. Pathan 7-0-32-0; Raina 4-0-16-0; R. Sharma 4-1-22-0.

India: G. Gambhir c Kandamby b Muralitharan 62; S. R. Tendulkar lbw b Thushara 5; S. K. Raina (run out) 54; Yuvraj Singh c Muralitharan b Maharoof 23; M. S. Dhoni (not out) 61; R. G. Sharma (not out) 25; Extras (lb 8, w 8, nb 1) 17; Total (for four wkts., 48.1 overs) 247.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-126, 3-137, 4-181.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 7-0-32-0; Thushara 8-0-44-1; Maharoof 8-0-35-1; Mendis 10-0-47-0; Muralitharan 10-0-52-1; Dilshan 5.1-0-29-0.