Instead, they fumbled yet again, this time against familiar opponents Sri Lanka to lose by a comprehensive five-wicket margin and get knocked out of the T20 World Cup in a rather embarrassing manner – ending up as the only team in the Super Eights not to win a single game.
The script looked a lot different for India at the start of the game, when upon winning the toss, India elected to bat. Ninety runs were smashed in the initial 10 overs despite the early loss of Dinesh Karthik thanks in main to Suresh Raina, who looked more at home on the slowish track at St. Lucia.
However, the Lankans fought back excellent in the slog overs to restrict India to a disappointing 163 for 5, only 73 runs coming in the second half of the innings.
Sri Lanka’s reply did not begin emphatically, but they won the crucial moments and stayed in the hunt till the very end to pip India at the post.
The reply was built on three significant contributions, none more crucial than the skipper Kumar Sangakkara, who led the Lankan fightback.
The other equally important knocks came from Angelo Mathews (46) and Chamara Kapugedera (37), who hit a last-ball six to seal the semi-final birth for his side.
At the closing stages, Sri Lanka needed 25 runs from an over and two deliveries left. But Kapugedera slammed a nervous debutant Vinay Kumar for two massive sixes, both over long on – the first of which knocked India out of the tournament – to bring the game back on a even keen.
The experienced Ashish Nehra was entrusted with the responsibility of bowling the final over, but had a rare off day and could not prevent the Lankans from getting the requisite 13 runs.
Mathews slashed a six off the first ball, and despite Nehra hitting back by running him out hit, Lanka managed to loft themselves to victory thanks to a smashing six over cover by Kapugedera.
While Mathews and Kapugedera did all the big hitting, it was Sangakkara who began the turnaround for Sri Lanka by lofting Harbhajan Singh over the top in the 12th over.
This was after Mahela Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya fell early and Tillakaratne Dilshan perished after a breezy cameo. Sangakkara went on register a crucial 44, which included two sixes off Yusuf Pathan to help Lanka stay afloat.
Earlier, Dilshan stroked five fours in two overs to lead Lanka’s mini-recovery after they were 6-2 after the first two overs. It wasn’t a match-changing effort, but certainly gave Lanka the momentum they were so desperately seeking.
For India, their best phase was when Gautam Gambhir and Raina were at the crease as India looked desperate to set a stiff target.
Raina, in particular, was ultra-aggressive taking on all the bowlers, lofting and driving them with the IPL-gained confidence. It helped that the ball did not rear up near the head.
Gambhir, who was clearly out of sorts, also began to find his touch, as India reigned supreme in the first 10 overs. Everything though changed with the fall of Gambhir for a well-compiled 41.
He tried to run Lasith Malinga down to thirdman, but only ended up guiding one straight to Sangakkara.
Malinga then combined with surprise package Thissara Perera to choke India in the final five overs. It did not help that Raina and Yuvraj Singh fell to low full-tosses and that Dhoni’s massive bat swing could not translate into boundaries.
If India still had a faint hope, it disappeared as soon as Kapugedera walloped that massive six of Kumar to take the score past 143. As far as India was concerned, the tournament had ended.
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