Steamrolling Sri Lanka

Yuvraj Singh celebrates his century.-AP

The Sri Lankan pacemen were awry with their line, but it can be said that Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh disrupted the bowlers’ rhythm. Their 221-run stand for the third wicket set up India’s massive victory that saw the visitors take a winning 3-0 lead in the series. By S. Dinakar.

They do not come more destructive than Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh. A hapless Sri Lankan attack bore the brunt of some heavy hitting by the duo at the Premadasa Stadium. The punishing strokeplay of Sehwag and Yuvraj was a celebration of attacking batsmanship. It was also a tribute to a fearless and a free-spirited brand of batting.

Off-spinning wizard Muttiah Muralithatan said: “These Indian batsmen are not afraid of losing their wickets. They are playing their strokes with a lot of confidence.”

Sehwag conjured a thrill-a-minute 90-ball 116 (17x4) while Yuvraj blasted his way to a 95-ball 117 (17x4, 1x6). The 221-run association for the third wicket consumed just 27.5 overs. India eventually won by a whopping 147 runs; the series was clinched with a winning 3-0 lead.

Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha spun the ball — there was bite and bounce in his bowling — to scalp four wickets. He castled Chamara Kapugedera with a lovely delivery that pitched on leg and hit middle.

The character of the surface changed in the second half of the match (India won a good toss) and there was substantial assistance for the spinners under the lights. The pitch, however, was good for batting in the afternoon and the outfield fast. Sehwag and Yuvraj cashed in on the conditions.

While the Sri Lankan pacemen were awry with their line, it can be argued that Sehwag and Yuvraj disrupted the bowlers’ rhythm. They repeatedly charged the pacemen, and when the bowlers pitched short, they pulled them off the front foot; the speedy Dilhara Fernando was no exception.

Spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis were not spared either. Sehwag used his feet and created room for the inside-out drives over cover off Muralitharan.

Yuvraj came down heavily on the erratic medium-pacer Farvez Maharoof, pounded Fernando and played Muralitharan and Mendis particularly well. Later, Yuvraj revealed that maestro Sachin Tendulkar’s inputs on how to handle Mendis had been invaluable. Crucially, the left-hander played Mendis in front of his pads.

After a mini collapse — Yuvraj, Sehwag and Suresh Raina fell in quick succession — Dhoni (35 not out off 45 balls) rotated the strike while Yusuf Pathan biffed a 38-ball unbeaten 59 (4x4, 3x6). India powered to 363 for five, the highest total at the Premadasa Stadium.

The Lankan plans might also have been disrupted by a switch in the Indian strategy. India took the batting Power Play early — in the 17th over — with its total on 124 for two. The Indians reckoned they had a better opportunity to pierce the infield when there was still some pace in the pitch; a harder ball too was in play. The five overs fetched India 43 runs without any loss.

India, once again, struck with the new ball. Sri Lanka desperately needed Sanath Jayasuriya to fire but the wily Praveen Kumar kept the ball close to the left-hander’s stumps. Denied room for his favourite cut stroke, Jayasuriya played on.

Only Kumar Sangakkara (83, 82b, 9x4) of fine footwork and temperament offered prolonged resistance. He is a well-organised southpaw who bats with a fair measure of flair.

There were useful efforts from Tillekeratne Dilshan and skipper Mahela Jayawardene — he went past the 8000-run mark in ODIs — but both could not carry on to a bigger score. Pursuing a daunting total, the Lankan batsmen were forced to take risks.

Praveen achieved two-way movement and exploited the evening dew with a fuller length. Ojha gave the ball air and spun it away from the right-hander. Maharoof’s dismissal — caught at slip — reflected Ojha’s line.

The day, however, belonged to Sehwag and Yuvraj. This right-left pair is also one of contrasting heights. The bowlers, therefore, are forced to alter their length as well. And considering the ability of Sehwag and Yuvraj to play strokes to all corners of the ground, the margin of error for the bowler is very less.

Yuvraj, who also managed to turn his fortunes around against Sri Lanka, was adjudged the Man of the Match.


Sri Lanka v India: Third ODI, R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, February 3, 2009 (day/night).

Result: India won by 147 runs.

India: V. Sehwag (run out) 116, S. Tendulkar lbw b Fernando 7, G. Gambhir (run out) 10, Yuvraj Singh c Kapugedera b Muralitharan 117, M. S. Dhoni (not out) 35, S. K. Raina st. Sangakkara b Mendis 9, Y. K. Pathan (not out) 59, Extras (w-7, nb-3) 10. Total: (for 5 wkts, 50 overs) 363.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-24, 3-245, 4-265, 5-278.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 10-0-68-0, Fernando 8-0-63-1, Maharoof 7-0-68-0, Mendis 9-0-64-1, Muralitharan 10-0-60-1, Jayasuriya 6-1-40-0.

Sri Lanka: T. M. Dilshan b Khan 31, S. T. Jayasuriya b Kumar 0, K. C. Sangakkara c Yuvraj b Ojha 83, D. P. M. D. Jayawardene c Sehwag b Kumar 30, S. H. T. Kandamby c Yuvraj b Sehwag 10, C. K. Kapugedera b Ojha 2, M. F. Maharoof c Gambhir b Ojha 22, K. M. D. N. Kulasekara c Tendulkar b Yuvraj 3, M. Muralitharan c Dhoni b Ojha 0, B. A. W. Mendis (not out) 8, C. R. D. Fernando (run out) 19, Extras (lb-3, w-5) 8.

Total: (41.4 overs) 216.

Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-51, 3-118, 4-132, 5-139, 6-184, 7-189, 8-189, 9-189.

India bowling: Z. Khan 8-1-44-1, P. Kumar 7-0-41-2, I. Sharma 5-0-35-0, P. P. Ojha 10-0-38-4, V. Sehwag 7-0-30-1, Yuvraj Singh 3.4-0-14-1, S. Tendulkar 1-0-11-0.