After a couple of nail-biting One dayers, India emerged out as the better side of the two when it beat Sri Lanka by a comprehensive margin of 7 wickets with 44 balls to spare at Cuttack. The hosts won the crucial third ODI at the Barabati Stadium and the pressure is now high on Sri Lanka to win the remaining two matches to take the series.
Few would have thought that India will end up with a cakewalk victory in the evening. Sri Lanka batting first started like a house on fire with the openers blasting 50 in just 3.4 overs! Zaheer Khan bowled rubbishly by spraying plenty of wides. Ishant Sharma making his comeback was targeted by Dilshan and it looked like Sehwag’s team was going to chase 350 atleast!
After Dilshan’s mad rage against Ishant, a golden opportunity came India’s way when the dashing opener was sent back by his partner midway in an attempted single. All the keeper Dinesh Karthik had to do was collect the throw and take a few yards to disturb the stumps. But Karthik over ran from the target and back flicked the ball over the stumps by just about 5 yards or so! Fortunately enough that mistake did not let Dilshan bat on to make a double century. He was instead out almost immediately when Karthik got under a miscued pull off Nehra. Dilshan smashed 41 from 18 balls with 10 fours in an opening stand of 65 in 6.2 overs.
Normalcy returned after that wicket although Tharanga along with Sangakkara kept the heat on India. The two left handers put on a century stand before Sangakkara (46 from 41 balls with 3 fours and a six) closed the face of the blade to miss a Sehwag off break having left the crease in the 23rd over. Karthik again in the limelight fumbled but had all the time in the world to complete the stumping with Sanga going too far away. A couple of overs later, Upul Tharanga (73 from 81 balls with 6 fours and a six) saw his off bail knocked out by a sharp turner from left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
In the 26th over, Mahela Jayawardene pulled Harbhajan Singh flat in the air to Raina at mid wicket to squander Lanka’s advantage. SL slipped to 173 for 4! A decent partnership between Kandamby and Kapugedera started to revive them but the latter trying to force one off the backfoot dragged the ball onto the stumps. It was again the slow bowling of Jadeja that did the trick. Sri Lanka got into the dumps again at 204 for 5 but looked good enough to post 270 plus.
A comeback spell from Ishant Sharma spoilt Sri Lanka’s match as he went through the defences of Kandamby (22) in the 36th over and in the very next ball got Suraj Randiv edging behind. Jadeja with his arm balls got rid of Kulasekara and Mendis. The innings came to an end in the 45th over when Malinga dragged his heave off Nehra onto his stumps. Jadeja was the hero for India with 4 for 32 in 10 overs. Harbhajan Singh for the third time in this series was a proud bowler with 1 for 29 in 9 overs.
The Indian openers – Sehwag and Tendulkar provided a superb start by bringing up the 50 in just 6.3 overs. Sri Lanka’s much needed breakthrough came in the 7th over when Sehwag cut Welegedara straight into the hands of point but not before taking them apart with his 28-ball 44 (with 9 fours). The new man in Gautam Gambhir played in a matured fashion to support Tendulkar in consolidating the innings. After putting on 72 runs for the 2nd wicket, Gambhir (32 from 52 balls with 3 fours) closed the face of the blade too soon to get brilliantly caught and bowled by off spinner Suraj Randiv.
India from 127 for 2 moved quicker towards the target of 240 with the arrival of Yuvraj Singh who drove magnificently through extra covers. Yuvraj moved to 23 (from 40 balls with 3 fours) before edging his cut off Welegedera to the keeper. It was another useful stand though for his team putting on 42 runs for the 3rd wicket and taking India 71 short of a win.
Dinesh Karthik promoted ahead of Raina played a busy innings that made short work of the rest of the target. Sri Lanka got the ball to reverse swing but it was Mendis who really let them down. Although he didn’t bowl that bad, it was just that Tendulkar and Karthik were not finding any problem in tackling him. Dew also came into play and the odd ball slipped out from the bowlers.
The target was wrapped up in the 43rd over. Dinesh Karthik accelerated with a six followed up with a boundary to finish things off. He remained unbeaten on 36 from 32 balls (with 5 fours and a six). Tendulkar was satisfied to remain unbeaten on 96 from 104 balls (with 13 fours). Although he had the opportunity to rake up another century, he let Karthik play the normal game.
There was nothing much to talk about the Lankan bowling except that of Suraj Randiv who had figures of 1 for 33 in 8 overs. Welegedara was impressive in patches especially when he got the ball to reverse swing. The Man of the Match went to a bowler and it was the young Ravindra Jadeja taking the honours.