A mind-blowing partnership between ‘Najagarh Nawab’ – Virender Sehwag and the ‘Mohali Prince’ – Yuvraj blasted Sri Lanka out of the series by setting up a massive 147-run win for India in the 3rd ODI. Both the daring and dashing batsmen made centuries to rescue their side from a shaky 24 for 2 to a final total of 363 that was obviously unreachable. The Sri Lankan batting could only give a bit of fight in their chase and had folded for 216 inside 42 overs.
Toss and Teams: MS Dhoni stunned everybody when he won the toss for the third time in a row; he decided to bat first like in the last ODI which was played at this same venue of R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. The pitch for the day was a fresh one which was completely devoid of grass. India remained unchanged while SL got in their ‘No-ball King’ Dilhara Fernando for Thilan Thushara.
Yuve, Sehwag demoralize the Lankans
The Indian innings got off to a busy start when Dilhara Fernando kept his tradition of overstepping the bowling crease which provided an early free hit for Tendulkar. The Master batsman swung his arms to send the ball into the long on stands for a 6 but his stay in the centre was robbed by yet another horrible lbw decision, to make it three bad lbw decisions in a row! For the second consecutive time, the culprit was Gamini Silva who was quick to raise his finger up when Sachin had failed to get bat on ball in a flick shot to a full swinging delivery that would have easily gone past the leg stump! Gambhir, the next batsman was lucky to have survived a drop chance at short point but was unlucky at the same time when he was run out backing up at the non-striker’s end when Fernando deflected a Sehwag straight drive onto the stumps. It probably was going to be Sri Lanka’s day after all as India lost 2 wickets in 4 overs.
The runs continued to flow despite the loss of the early wickets as Sehwag and Yuvraj find it very easy to put away anything off target on any day. The Lankan bowlers failed to bowl in the right areas leaving the two batsmen to counter attack. Yuvraj took the initiative of rattling the bowlers while Sehwag sensibly took the backseat giving the left hander enough strike. It was no rush of blood for both the batsmen as they picked their spots in advance for each of their shots. A flurry of boundaries kept coming and the game was literally going away from the Lankans at the rate of knots! By drinks, India got to 96 for 2 in 14 overs and the batting powerplay was taken smartly immediately after the bowling one finished in the 16th. SL had earlier brought in Mendis in the 11th over by holding back the bowling powerplay which didn’t work for Mahela. The last over of the bowling powerplay saw Yuvraj flicking Maharoof as many as four boundaries towards fine leg! A total of 50 runs were picked during this powerplay.
The third powerplay was severely dealt by Yuvraj and Sehwag as well with 43 runs getting smacked to take India to a dominating 167 for 2 in just 21 overs! The 23rd over saw Sanath Jayasuriya drop a sitter offered by Sehwag who was already onto 73 then. The two batsmen continued to keep the pressure on the bowlers and the first to reach three figures was Yuvraj who got his first century against Sri Lanka, his 11th ODI century overall which came in 82 balls. Sehwag got his deserving 10th ODI Century in the 31st over having faced just 75 balls, faster than Yuvraj’s! It needed the world’s best bowler Muttiah Muralidaran to break this devastating partnership which he did when he got a bit of extra bounce and turn to force Yuvraj to uppishly cut to point to equal Wasim Akram’s 502 wickets. Yuvraj had done his damage by scoring 117 in 95 balls with 17 fours and a six! Sehwag (116 from 90 balls with 17 fours) departed in the 35th over trying to take a run having hit the ball firmly to Sanath at mid off. India was at 265 for 4 at this stage and seemed to have lost slight edge in recording 400 when Raina got stumped off Mendis in the 39th over.
India though guarded itself from ending up to a disappointing total of around 320 thanks to a sensible partnership between MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan. Dhoni played with care while Pathan batted freely to keep some momentum going and Sri Lanka failed to create any batting collapse. India finished at 363 for 5 with Dhoni remaining unbeaten on 35 from 45balls and Yusuf showing his power in an unbeaten innings of 59 from 38 balls with 4 fours and 3 sixes. The three pacers of Sri Lanka suffered badly going for almost 200 in their combined 25 overs! Mendis was expensive in his 1st spell and finished with 1 for 64 in 9 and Murali with 1 for 60 in his 10.
Pragyan spins match India way
Swing bowler Praveen Kumar got a banana inswinger to force a cut shot off Jayasuriya to crash back onto the stumps to give a perfect start! Sanath was out to a first ball duck in the 2nd over. Dilshan (31 from 26 balls with 4 fours and a six) played some delightful shots on the up before playing a rank bad slog against Zaheer to be bowled in the 9th over leaving SL at 51 for 2. It was now all left to the pair of Sangakkara and Mahela to put up a match which they did with some classy shots, especially the Sri Lankan Skipper! Jayawardene got boundaries at will with beautiful shots such as the wristy pick up shots, inside out lofted shots over covers. Sri Lanka like India decided to use their batting powerplay straightaway with the two batsmen in full flow. They were pegged back though in the 19th over when Praveen Kumar broke the partnership when Mahela (30 from 33 balls with 4 fours) lofted a length ball straight to mid off. That was an end to a threatening 67-run stand.
Sri Lanka after the powerplays were losing wickets at a regular interval with the spinners getting the ball to grip the surface. Last match hero Kandamby was the first to go during this stage when he reverse swept Sehwag straight to point in what was only the second ball bowled by Viru in his spell. Kapugedera was cleaned up by a magic ball from Ojha that turned from outside legstump to hit the off and middle! Maharoof (22 from 40) gave some valuable company for Sangakkara without actually troubling India and his end came when Pragyan Ojha got him to nick to slip because of some sharp turn and bounce. The match came to a virtual end when Sanga failed to get hold of his pull shot to miscue it to short fine leg off Ojha in the 35th over. The very next ball, Ojha took his fourth wicket by getting a bottom edge off a cut shot from Murali once again with the ball turning big. Sri Lanka were bundled out in 41.4 overs for 216.
Pragyan Ojha was the pick of the bowlers with 10-0-38-4 which was clearly his career best. Sehwag was difficult to put away as well and he went for just 30 in 7 overs as the ball turned almost square in the second half of the match. The Man of the Match went to Yuvraj Singh for taking the initiative in his destructive partnership with Sehwag and had also helped himself with a wicket. The Indian fielding was quite brilliant with a lot stunning saves coming from the infielders like Suresh Raina.