Ravindra Jadeja was the unlikely hero with the ball for India, claiming a career-best 4/32 and helping India overcome an unbelievably belligerent start by Sri Lanka, who batted first after winning the toss. In the end, India won easily by 7 wickets thanks to yet another supreme effort from Sachin Tendulkar, who remained unbeaten on 96, as India chased down a modest target of 240.
The way the Lankans began, they looked well on course to score over 350. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga slammed nearly each and every delivery out of sight as the partnership raised 65 in less than seven overs. Once again, the left-arm pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra were at the receiving. Ishant Sharma, who took the place of Praveen Kumar in the playing XI, wasn’t spared either. If anything, he was singled out for special treatment by the dynamic opening pair. The Indians once again were let down by their fielding. MS Dhoni’s keeping replacement Dinesh Karthik missed one of the easiest run out chances amidst the run carnage, Dilshan being the beneficiary. Luckily for India and Karthik, the slip-up did not prove too costly as Nehra snapped him up a few runs later, caught by none other than Karthik himself of a short, rising delivery which Dilshan (41) top-edged.
The troubles though were far from over for the Indians. Tharanga continued the good work in the company of skipper Kumar Sangakkara. Mixing caution and aggression perfectly, the two laid a solid foundation for Lanka. The pair had added exactly a hundred when Sangakkara’s charge down the track to his opposite number Virender Sehwag proved fatal. Sangakkara missed the ball and a fumbling Karthik somehow managed to get rid of the bails, giving India some much-needed respite. There was no looking back for India from thereon as they took firm control.
The left-arm spinner Jadeja began his demolition job by cleaning up the well-set Tharanga (73) from one which came back in sharply and breached his defence. Soon, he had Chamara Kapugedera bowled off an inside edge. At the other end, Harbhajan Singh was doing a wonderful job, strangling the runs. He was rewarded for his efforts with the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. The former skipper fell to a tame dismissal when he lofted a long hop straight into the hands of a floating short mid-on. Sharma, who had a woeful first spell, then came back to dent the Lankans further with a double blow. He had the dangerous Thilina Kandamby bowled and Suraj Randiv caught behind off successive deliveries. Jadeja then continued his good work trapping Nuwan Kulasekara lbw and cleaning bowling Ajantha Mendis as the Lankan innings drew to a close. From 165/1, the visitors miraculously collapsed to 239 all out.
For the Lankans to stay in the game, early wickets were essential. However, a whirlwind start by stand-in skipper Sehwag (44) ensured the nerves were settled in the Indian dressing room. Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh also made useful contributions, but it was Tendulkar who saw India through till the end in the company of Karthik (36*). On most days, such a performance would have been enough to earn Tendulkar the man of the match, but on this day it was undeniably Jadeja whose performance stood out.
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