The decade has changed, but India’s fortunes in finals haven’t. They slid to yet another defeat as Sri Lanka becalmed a familiar opposition in the game that mattered.
Mahela Jayawardene, recalled midway through the series, guided Lanka’s tough chase of 246 with a mature, unbeaten 71. There were useful contributions from Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan as well which ensured that India’s mighty fight back with the bat courtesy Suresh Raina’s magnificent century went in vain.
Batting first, the Indians slumped to 60 for 5 in no time before Raina’s rearguard action, in the company of Ravindra Jadeja, ensured the team ended with a respectable score. But, in the end, it was Jayawardene’s effort that mattered the most.
Coming into bat following the quick dismissals of Dilshan and Sangakkara, the former Lankan skipper anchored the innings to perfection to take Lanka home in the penultimate over.
Playing risk-free cricket, he began hesitantly, pushing and prodded at most deliveries. But, once he settled down, he brought out some of his classy strokes as well.
It was Jayawardene at his methodical best, just what the doctor ordered for Sri Lanka. He found an able ally in Thilan Samaraweera, with whom he added 48 crucial runs after the loss of two quick wickets.
The team found itself in a spot of bother after Samaraweera’s dismissal, bowled by Jadeja’s arm ball, was followed by Thilina Kandamby’s, who was accounted for by Harbhajan Singh. But, nothing affected Jayawardene on this day.
He had his share of deserved luck too when Harbhajan put him down at point, just after he had crossed his half-century. Suraj Randiv fell with another 18 runs still required.
But S. Sreesanth, who disappointed big time, released all the pressure by allowing Jayawardene to hit him for three boundaries to various parts of the ground and that was the series.
Earlier, Sri Lanka laid a solid platform for the win despite losing Upul Tharanga in the first over. Tharanga slashed at one way outside off-stump from Ashish Nehra.
But the unfit left-arm seamer couldn’t take much further part in the final and the in-from Dilshan and Sangakkara took full advantage of it. Neither Zaheer Khan nor Sreesanth could stop the flow of runs as Lanka progressed smoothly to 93 for one.
It needed the golden arm of Yurvaj Singh to break the partnership. Dilshan tried to cut glide one behind the wickets and ended up edging the ball into MS Dhoni’s gloves, one short of another 50 against India.
Buoyed by the breakthrough, Harbhajan snared Sangakkara for 55 with a rising delivery that spun away from the left-hander and induced the edge. Some tense moments followed, but Jayawardene and Samaraweera went about the rebuilding task without much fuss.
At the start of the game, bowling was the big worry for India. But on the big day, the batters ditched the side. India lost their first five wickets for a mere 60 runs, 42 of them coming from Virender Sehwag’s bat as Nuwan Kulasekara and Chanaka Welegedara shared the spoils.
Raina came in and played a splendid knock, but in hindsight, the damage caused by then proved to be irreparable.