Sanity was restored to cricket at Nagpur as the scores returned to the usual 300-bracket from the extraordinary 400 plus totals achieved at Rajkot. But, there was no shortage of drama here too as the match once again went down to the wire. Yet again, it seemed Sri Lanka would throw it away after being in a commanding position for most part of the chase. However, an unimpressive bowling effort and some slack fielding in the closing stages combined to let Lanka off the hook in the end. For the visitors, Angelo Mathews (37*) played a brisk cameo, batting with a runner towards the fag end of the innings, to ensure the Lankans did not repeat the mistakes made in the first game.
Earlier, it was Tillakaratne Dilshan who once again set up the chase of 302 perfectly for Sri Lanka, notching up his second blistering ton in as many games and fifth overall. Like in the first game, he got excellent support from his opening partner Upul Tharanga. The duo batted as if they were continuing from where they finished at Rajkot. All the bowlers were taken to the cleaners from the very start of the innings. Zaheer Khan was pulverized, as were Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar. Most of Dilshan’s big strokes came hitting on the up, either straight down on the ground or over mid-on and mid-off. It was a typical Dilshan effort which saw the Lankans race past fifty in the 7th over. At the other end, Tharanga played his part well, finding the boundaries every time width was offered to him as the duo registered their second century partnership in consecutive matches.
With the Lankan openers going great guns, MS Dhoni had to turn to Harbhajan Singh as early as the 8th over. But Dilshan took a liking to him as well, playing mind games with him. At times he trudged down the ground to the spinner and on other occasions, he stayed back and nudged or cut the bowler for boundaries behind square. Eventually though, it was Harbhajan who got the breakthrough, beating Tharanga in the flight and having him caught in the slips. Dilshan then helped India’s cause by running out his captain Kumar Sangakkara for 21.
The match continued to ebb and flow from there on with Nehra cleaning up Dilshan for a magnificent 123 with a perfectly-directed yorker. At the other end, Zaheer delivered three big strikes in his final spell to keep India in the hunt. Ironically, his erroneous fielding lapses in the penultimate over settled the matter in favour of the visitors.
Batting first after winning the toss, India rode on a lucky century from skipper Dhoni – he was let off on more than one occasion – and half-centuries from Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to post 301 for 7. This after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir fell cheaply and Sachin Tendulkar failed to convert a good start. The recall of Ajantha Mendis benefited Lanka while debutant spinner Suraj Randiv was more than impressive, picking up three crucial scalps. India still ended up with a fighting total. But the kind of form Dilshan is in, no total can be termed match-winning. He missed out on the man of the match award by a whisker at Rajkot, but at Nagpur there were no two choices.
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