Swift and simple execution

S. DINAKAR

Irfan Pathan with the Man of the Match Trophy (below). The left-arm paceman, who picked up four wickets in the match, celebrates with skipper Dravid and J.P. Yadav, after taking the wicket of Kumara Sangakkara.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

IT was a massacre in Mohali. The contest lasted just 56 overs and the Indians were home and dry by eight wickets. The victory was swift and simple for Rahul Dravid's men.

If the Sri Lankans were seeking a place to hide in the pretty arena, they would not have found any in front of a packed, delirious crowd. The Indians delighted, the Lankans disappointed.

The islanders were caught out on a Mohali pitch with a layer of grass that afforded seam movement. A total of 122, cobbled together in just over 35.4 overs, was never going to be enough. With Sachin Tendulkar in majestic form, the Indians galloped to the target.

The Lankan batsmen, who had played on a very different surface in the first ODI at Nagpur, required technical adjustments to their game in Mohali. They were found wanting.

REUTERS

There is a sense of purpose in this Indian side with the Chappell-Dravid duo at the helm. The team has been injected with a dose of energy; it is keen and eager on the field, it is closing out games.

For most part, Ganguly has been an admirable performer for India with over 10,000 runs in limited overs internationals. Injuries and loss of form had put a question mark over his future in the Indian team. Even a Duleep Trophy hundred was not enough to convince the wise men about his return to form.

Inserted, the Lankans fell into the Pathan trap. The left-armer seems to have got over the fitness problems that hampered his career last season. He is running in well; his bowling has rhythm, it has movement.

Crucially, his mind appears to be free from the worries of landing into fitness trouble again. This explains why Pathan has been livelier in this series than earlier in the season. The left-armer's surging confidence has certainly added teeth to the Indian pace attack.

Sachin Tendulkar has found his touch and that's good news for India. Here the spin wizard, Muttiah Muralitharan, greets the batting legend after India's thumping win.-AP

Pathan's four-wicket eight-over burst with the new ball settled the issue. And the effervescent Baroda cricketer celebrated his 21st birthday in Mohali with the Man of the Match award. He continued swinging the ball into the right-hander as a hapless Tillekeratne Dilshan discovered.

It was Pathan's strikes that put the Lankans under immense pressure as skipper Dravid said later. This was the phase where the match turned India's way. Reduced to 54 for five, the visitors never emerged from the hole.

The Indians went in with the right game plan. Both Pathan and Ajit Agarkar swung the ball from a fuller length. The islanders cut and pull well. Now they were denied width.

Well as Pathan and Agarkar operated — paceman S. Sreesanth was surprisingly named the Super Sub — the lack of application in the Sri Lankan batting must have been disturbing for coach Tom Moody. The islanders needed to see the early overs through, when the surface was fresh, and then consolidated.

Instead, the Lankans chose to attack the bowling when the percentages were loaded against such tactics succeeding in these conditions. Jayasuriya's vigil ended when he lashed out at Pathan only to find the ball settling in third man's hands. Atapattu was done in by a slower delivery of full length from Agarkar that curled away from the batsman.

Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag are over the moon, after the dismissal of Russel Arnold. Sehwag is again in focus (below) as he is poised to take the catch from Jayasuriya.-AP

Kumara Sangakkara, who promised much in the opening slot, chose the wrong line to pull, and Mahela Jayawardene flicked into square-leg's hands.

It's obvious here that the Lankans were not stroking in the `V' at a time when discretion was required from key batsmen. With wickets in hand, the islanders could have accelerated later. A score of 250 might have been a competitive one under the lights. Less than half of that meant there was no pressure on India. The duel had virtually been decided when the host began the chase.

There were definitely gains for India from the match. Jai Prakash Yadav, unsung and low profile, sent down a tidy ten-over spell. He moved the ball, scalped two Lankans. A handy multi-skilled cricketer, he is.

And Harbhajan continued operating round the wickets to the southpaws. The spinners Harbhajan and Kartik were also slower through the air, which meant they would be spinning the ball more.

The Sri Lankan batsmen also did not have much pace on the ball to play with. Strategically, the Indians were brilliant and the Chappell-Dravid combination deserves a round of applause.

On view was an unmistakable sense of togetherness in the Indian camp. This was a bunch that relished playing as a unit. The players were enjoying each other's success.

AP

Dravid's captaincy was smart and he didn't miss a trick. When the Indians pursued, Tendulkar was in great touch and his thundering strokes down the ground were awesome.

Few batsmen are as balanced while essaying this stroke as the Mumbaikar is.

Sehwag glittered for a while before knocking one back off the leading edge to bowler Maharoof. Yadav, promoted to No. 3, fell sweeping at Muttiah Muralitharan. It was only a matter of time, though, before India swaggered past the finish line.

After its batting capitulation, Lanka was in no position to force a victory but the bowlers did let themselves down by operating short and wide; the Indians were not made to work hard for their runs.

Moody was right when he said, "I am not taking anything away from India but our batsmen and our bowlers disappointed." The Lankans have plenty of catching up to do in the remaining five games. The Indians are rollicking along the highway to victory.

So impressed were the selectors with India's victory in Mohali that they retained the squad for the 3rd, 4th and 5th one-day matches against Sri Lanka. This meant that there was still no place for former captain Sourav Ganguly.

The scores

India v Sri Lanka: Second One-Day International; Mohali, (D/N), Oct. 28. India won by eight wickets.

Sri Lanka: K. Sangakkara c Tendulkar b Pathan 27; S. Jayasuriya c Sehwag b Pathan 0; M. Atapattu c Dhoni b Agarkar 4; M. Jayawardene c Venugopal Rao b Pathan 7; R. Arnold c Dravid b Harbhajan Singh 15; T. Dilshan lbw b Pathan 0; M. Maharoof c Yuvraj Singh b Yadav 18; C. Vaas (run out) 7; U. Chandana (not out) 19; N. Zoysa lbw b Yadav 0; M. Muralitharan b Harbhajan Singh 15; Extras (lb-2, w-8) 10. Total (in 35.4 overs) 122.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-13, 3-33, 4-54, 5-54, 6-71, 7-80, 8-104, 9-104.

India bowling: Pathan 8-0-37-4; Agarkar 7-1-27-1; Yadav 10-1-32-2; Harbhajan 6.4-1-19-2; Kartik 4-1-5-0.

India: V. Sehwag c & b Maharoof 38; S. Tendulkar (not out) 67; Jai P. Yadav lbw b Muralitharan 9; R. Dravid (not out) 2; Extras (lb-3, w-4) 7. Total (for two wkts. in 20.2 overs) 123.

Fall of wickets: 1-80, 2-115.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 3-0-22-0; Zoysa 4-0-37-0; Muralitharan 7.2-0-32-1; Maharoof 3-0-19-1; Dilshan 3-0-10-0.

Sri Lanka full substitute: U. Chandana (C. R. D. Fernando, Sri Lanka innings, 21.0 ov).

India full substitute: Sreesanth (unused).