Sri Lanka had an unbelievable batting collapse at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart which allowed India to storm into Finals of the CB Series. Asked to bat first by MS Dhoni, the Lankans slipped from 72 for 1 to 93 for 7! India then had a cakewalk to chase a moderate target of 180 which they achieved with 7 wickets in hand and 17.4 overs to spare.
India made a couple of changes to their side with Virender Sehwag and Sreesanth making way for Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel. Sri Lanka lost an early wicket that of Dilruwan Perera to a beauty from Ishant Sharma but were put on track with Jayasuriya coming good in the company of the inform Kumar Sangakkara. The pair put on a nice half century stand before Sangakkara (33 from 42 with 4 fours) made an over ambitious attempt to chip down the track and clobber Praveen Kumar which only backfired. Praveen Kumar did the adjustments by dragging it short and with a bit of seam movement found the edge while Dhoni completed a diving catch to his left to end Sangakkara’s stay. That was a maiden ODI wicket for Praveen Kumar althoug he was playing his 3rd ODI. Praveen in his next over was once again lucky as Mahela Jayawardene (3) failed to keep his cut down to be brilliantly caught at point by Rohit Sharma.
Sri Lanka could never recover after that double blow with Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan joining the party to have the Lankans out of the match at 93 for 7 in the 26th over. The biggest of the wickets was that of Sanath Jayasuriya (34 from 44 with 2 fours and a six), who miscued a hook off a Pathan bouncer. Sri Lanka’s innings folded in the 48th over. They got to a respectable 179 thanks to Chamara Kapugedera’s 57 (from 86 balls with 4 fours). Kapugedera added 46 with Malinga and 40 with Murali for the 8th and 9th wicket respectively. For India, Ishant finished with 4 for 41 and Praveen had much better figures of 4 for 31 along with two maidens in his 10 overs.
The ball was hardly doing anything when the Indian innings began. A new opening combination of Robin Uthappa and Sachin Tendulkar failed to deliver a good start as the former was caught off a leading edge. Uthappa couldn’t take advantage of a dropped catch in the slips off Vaas and he lasted just the 9 balls. However, that early breakthrough didn’t make it difficult at all for the Indians with Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir taking complete control. Tendulkar’s half century came in just the 44 balls. His entertaining innings came to an end with over 60 to get after trying to loft Murali inside out. He made 63 from just 54 balls with 10 fours. Like Tendulkar, Yuvraj came out with an intention of hitting at his critics with his strokeplay. He succeeded in doing so with some murderous shots but couldn’t avoid another dismissal! Yuvraj fell making 36 (from 35 balls with 4 fours) after playing an uppish drive to covers. Gautam Gambhir smartly stayed unbeaten to boost his batting average, he got 63 from 89 with the help of 5 fours as India completed victory in just the 33rd over.
Muttiah Muralitharan was taken to the cleaners today, he was hit for 54 in 8.2 overs. With this defeat, Sri Lanka are out of the CB Series and their last match against Australia is just of academic interest. The 21-year-old Praveen Kumar got his first Man of the Match award.