Making the right moves

The Indian ground fielding tended to wilt when the Sri Lankan batsmen put pressure on the fielders. The Lankans ran hard between the wickets and stole the extra run frequently, writes S. Dinakar.

Winning truncated matches is a lot about thinking on your feet. Sri Lanka outsmarted India in a rain-affected game at the picturesque Manuka Oval.

The decision to open with Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillekeratne Dilshan was spot on. The Lankan target was reduced to 154 in 21 overs. This was much like a Twenty20 shoot-out.

Dilshan had opened in the Sri Lankan domestic circuit. His promotion to the top-order meant Sri Lanka had a left-right combination at the top.

S. Sreesanth, a predominantly outswing paceman, could not adjust his line against Jayasuriya. The veteran’s 13-ball 27 settled the issue. There would be no comebacks for India subsequently.

Dilshan relished his new role. He negated the threat from Ishant Sharma and found the gaps. This was good, clever cricket.

His unbeaten 59-ball 62 was an effort of a quick-footed batsman who could put the bowlers on the back-foot. Despite a lack of consistency, Dilshan is rated high in the Sri Lankan camp.

Of course, it can be argued that chasing 196 in 29 overs might have been higher on the scale of difficulty. The Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, however, said his side would have won in any event. “We would have got 196,” he said.

His counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni thought differently. “I think it would have been harder for them to chase 196. Finally, it became like a Twenty20 game and 154 is a gettable score in this form of cricket,” said Dhoni.

This was Sri Lanka’s first win in this edition of the CB series competition. Jayawardene was delighted. “I thought we played some good cricket. The bowlers did a competent job and the openers gave us a good start.”

Jayawardene captained astutely shuffling his pacemen around, and then shepherded the side home with Dilshan. A natural stroke-maker, Jayawardene donned a different role, easing the ball into the gaps and rotating the strike.

The Indians perhaps missed a trick by not taking the pace off the ball. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh did that and the Lankans could not harness the speed on the ball. Kumara Sangakkara attempted to impart pace on the ball and perished.

In the evening, Jayawardene and Dhoni addressed the press conference jointly. Both captains dwelt on the great atmosphere at the Manuka Oval where international cricket returned after 16 years. The lively crowd enjoyed the cricket, rooting for the respective sides. The Appu Army, cheering the Lankans, was a blend of colour and music.

In the morning, Rohit Sharma innovated for an unbeaten 64-ball 70 that showcased his ability. Rohit timed the ball and squeezed it through empty spaces. The young batsman is gaining in confidence in the middle-order. The talented shot-maker also seems to possess a calm head which is a good sign in a youngster.

Skipper Dhoni, promoting himself to No. 5, once again revealed his growing maturity with the willow. Several Indian partnerships in the ongoing tri-series have revolved around Dhoni.

Earlier, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir came up with useful contributions. Runs arrived at a brisk pace and a total of 195 for five in 29 overs was more than an ordinary effort. Muttiah Muralitharan was handled competently with the batsmen, Gambhir in particular, using their feet.

Pace bowling all-rounder Farvez Maharoof was included the XI and bowled well. Promising paceman Ishara Amerasinghe was injured but Maharoof and Kulasekara chipped in adequately. The Lankan decision to play an extra bowler worked.

However, winning games is not about batting and bowling alone. Sharp and athletic fielding resulted in the run-outs of Gambhir and Dhoni. The Lankans were on target at Manuka Oval.

In contrast, the Indian ground fielding tended to wilt when the Sri Lankan batsmen put pressure on the fielders. The Lankans ran hard between the wickets and stole the extra run frequently.

The Lankans were home and dry with 12 deliveries to spare. This was a rousing win for the islanders and the Appu Army went delirious.

THE SCORES

CB Tri-Series, fifth match, India v Sri Lanka, Canberra, February 12. Sri Lanka won by eight wickets.

India: V. Sehwag c Muralitharan b Kulasekara 14; S. Tendulkar c Kulasekara b Maharoof 32; G. Gambhir (run out) 35; R. Sharma (not out) 70; M. Dhoni (run out) 31; Yuvraj Singh c Muralitharan b Malinga 6; R. Uthappa (not out) 0; Extras (lb-1, w-6) 7. Total (for five wkts., in 29 overs) 195.

Fall of wickets: 1-45, 2-49, 3-113, 4-181, 5-192.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 6-1-39-0; Malinga 6-0-45-1; Maharoof 6-0-33-1; Kulasekara 6-0-41-1; Muralitharan 5-0-36-0.

Sri Lanka: T. Dilshan (not out) 62; S. Jayasuriya c Dhoni b I. Sharma 27; K. Sangakkara c I. Sharma b Harbhajan 10; M. Jayawardene (not out) 36; Extras (lb-6, w-10, nb-3) 19. Total (for two wkts., in 19 overs) 154.

Fall of wickets: 1-45, 2-69.

India bowling: Sreesanth 3-0-48-0; I. Sharma 4-0-26-1; Pathan 4-0-30-0; Harbhajan 4-0-15-1; Tendulkar 2-0-15-0; Sehwag 2-0-14-0.