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Samaraweera, Perera help SL overcome India

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Sri Lanka chasing again under lights at the Shere Bangla National Stadium defeated India by 5 wickets. The target was 280 which was a tricky one only because there was no Tillakaratne Dilshan in the line up. However for the Lankans, Thilan Samaraweera stood up to the occasion and proved that he is good enough to score the big knocks in One dayers as well. The Lankan run machine scored an unbeaten 105 to steer his side to victory.

The crucial toss was won by Kumar Sangakkara which meant that Sri Lanka were the firm favourites as India had to bear the headache of bowling with the wet ball in the latter half. The Indians needed to post atleast 320 to feel somewhat safe about the match as the dew conditions at this venue make it impossible for the bowlers to maintain their lines and lengths.

India started off showing a lot of urgency with Virender Sehwag caning the bowlers as usual. But India got onto the backfoot losing three wickets in quick succession that of Gautam Gambhir (playing all around a swinging yorker from Welegedara in the 3rd over), Virat Kohli (edging his late cut to the keeper in the 7th over) and Sehwag (getting a leading edge after flicking too early in the 9th over). All the three batsmen were dismissed by the left armer Chanaka Welegedara. Sehwag departed having blasted 47 from 31 balls with 9 fours which sadly was nothing more than a Twenty20 knock for India.

At 71 for 3, it was all about repair work for the Men in Blue. Skipper MS Dhoni drafted along with Yuvraj Singh, who wasn’t timing the ball well. The two batsmen eventually got into their groove to put on 99 runs for the fourth wicket before MS Dhoni edged his cut off Thissara Perera to his counterpart. Dhoni scored a slow 37 from 70 balls with 3 fours before falling in the 32nd over. Just a few overs later, Yuvraj Singh pulled the same bowler straight to deep mid wicket to leave India in trouble at 198 for 5. Yuvraj helped by a couple of sixes from part time leggie Kandamby had scored 74 (from 84 balls with 6 fours and 2 sixes).

Suresh Raina, who was called back to bat after being given caught behind off a bump ball made his luck count to help his team get to a good total. Ravindra Jadeja, another left hander joined hands with him to bring India back in the game as boundaries flowed again. The start of the batting powerplay which was taken in the 44th over was productive but in the latter part, Sri Lanka got three quick wickets to reduce India at 268 for 8. Raina (35 from 46 balls with 4 fours) was yorked by Welegedara to end what was an important 65-run stand for the 6th wicket. India lost its last four wickets for just 12 runs to end up with 279 for 9. Ravindra Jadeja played well for his 39 from 34 balls (with 3 fours and a six).

Left armer Chanaka Welegedara finished with 5 for 66 in 10 overs. It was a funny day for him, getting smacked for plenty of runs, spraying around a few wides, bowling a few no balls but every now and then compensating with wicket taking deliveries. Tall medium pacer Thissara Perera was instrumental in getting the two big wickets of Dhoni and Yuvraj which was the difference between a total of 320 and 280.

The Sri Lankan innings began with the two Indian left armers Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan frequently going past the outside edges of the two left handers Tharanga and debutant Lahiru Thirimanne. On some other day, Sri Lanka would have easily lost three wickets to Nehra itself but luck wasn’t there for the Delhi swing bowler. It was instead a good opening stand of 48 in 8.3 overs before Thirimanne (22 from 24 balls with 4 fours) miscued a pull off Sreesanth towards mid wicket. In the 16th over, Harbhajan Singh deceived Tharanga (30 from 48 balls) in the air to get a return catch off an early drive.

Samaraweera joined his Skipper Sangakkara at 77 for 2 with India right on top. The dew wasn’t that bad like the first game and the spinners could grip the ball pretty well. The Indians were looking to bowl plenty of dot balls in this period but were taken aback by some glorious late cuts from Samaraweera who kept on going back and gliding the ball behind point effortlessly. The fielding side lost the plot as Sri Lanka got a big partnership going. Finally in the 37th over, Sangakkara (60 from 80 balls with 4 fours) drove a wide off break from Harbhajan uppishly to extra covers to give the breakthrough. By then, Sanga had put on 122 runs with Samaraweera to take SL to 199 for 3.

Harbhajan Singh before finishing his wonderful spell came up with the big wicket of Thilina Kandamby when the left hander lost his cool and miscued a slog sweep in the deep. Sri Lanka at 217 for 4 in the 41st over were under pressure. They lost one more wicket in Suraj Randiv via a run out.

The match was now in India’s control with Sri Lanka missing a batsman in M Pushpakumara as he was badly hurt with a jarred shoulder while fielding. However, it was newcomer Perera who walked in and blasted the bowlers around to make shortwork of the remaining target during the batting powerplay which was taken in the 44th over. Samaraweera had nothing much to do and just hung in there to clinch his second ODI hundred. He remained unbeaten on 105 from 106 balls with 11 fours but it was Thissara Perera who stole the match away with an unbeaten 36 from 15 balls with 6 fours and a six. Samaraweera was given the Man of the Match award.

The dew had got to the Indians as the likes of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra ended up bowling quite a few friendly full tosses at a critical phase of the match. Harbhajan Singh’s efforts of 10-1-47-3 was outstanding considering that the spinners had no place in the dew conditions. Yuvraj Singh too bowled a few good balls in his 5-0-19-0.