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Sehwag sizzles in India's win

S. Dinakar

Indian bowlers perform well in the crunch match

— PHOTO: AFP

DEVASTATING:Virender Sehwag guided India to a convincing win on Monday.

DAMBULLA: A wonderfully-paced 100-ball unbeaten 99 under pressure from opener Virender Sehwag enabled India, pursuing 171, defeat Sri Lanka by six wickets in a Micromax ODI tri-series match at the Rangiri Stadium here on Monday. India won with a bonus point.

Sehwag exploded towards the finish, pulling seamer Angelo Mathews for the maximum and striking off-spinner Suraj Randiv over square-leg for a six. With the scores level, he thwacked a no-ball from Randiv over the long-off fence but the stroke did not count as India had already clinched the match after the bowler overstepped the crease. Sehwag was adjudged Man-Of-the-Match.

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (23 not out) provided Sehwag fine support in a decisive unbeaten 80-run partnership for the fifth wicket. The Indian captain's off-drive off Lasith Malinga stood out.

Unusually circumspect

Earlier, Sri Lanka's strategy was clear. The side had selected an additional paceman in Dilhara Fernando. The Indian batting was tested with short-pitched deliveries. Sehwag was unusually circumspect. He was also seeking rhythm and timing in conditions where batting called for application.

Gradually, strokes flowed from his willow. Sehwag punched a full length delivery from Lasith Malinga down the ground. The next delivery was pitched short, and the opener unleashed a scorching cut. When Fernando strayed in line, he was flicked with panache.

The left-handed Suresh Raina, appearing in his 100th ODI, lofted Nuwan Kulasekara over mid-off and put away a short delivery from Fernando past the point fence.

However, Fernando eventually got Raina (21) to miscue a pull off a short-pitched delivery. Upul Tharanga held on to the catch after appearing to drop it. The fourth-wicket pair, though, had added 59 vital runs.

Quick wickets

Earlier, India lost three wickets in a jiffy between overs nine and eleven. Opener Dinesh Karthik's idea was right but the execution wrong. He edged a cut off a short delivery outside the off-stump from seamer Angelo Mathews to be picked up at third man.

Then, Fernando moved a full length ball away from Virat Kohli in the corridor. The batsman nicked an attempted drive and keeper Kumar Sangakkara flung himself to his right to hold a tremendous catch.

Moments later, India was 32 for three when Rohit Sharma played around his front pad to be adjudged leg-before to an incoming delivery from Mathews. Rohit stood his ground and pointed at his bat; there seemed to be an inside edge involved here.

In the first half of the contest, India allowed the Sri Lankan tail to wag. Both Randiv (43) and Kulasekara (22) were provided width and room. Randiv drove Pragyan Ojha through covers and wristed Ravindra Jadeja. Kulasekara cut and slashed Ishant Sharma.

Ishant, finally, moved one away from the off-stump to end Kulasekara's tenure but the eighth wicket pair had added 39 crucial runs. A combative cricketer, Randiv proceeded to put on useful runs with Malinga and Fernando.

The Indian fielding was not always tidy and run-out opportunities were squandered. The side should have blown away the tail.

Brilliant start

Dhoni's wretched luck with the toss continued but the Indians had reasons to celebrate immediately after the start.

Praveen Kumar moved one from middle stump to off and the left-handed Upul Tharanga, hardly balanced, heard the rattle of timber.

Although much of the grass had been chopped off, there was deviation off the seam for the pacemen. And a thick cloud cover meant the swing bowlers were in business as well.

Praveen bowled a teasing line from a strong wrist action, shaping the ball away and bringing it in. The paceman won a marginal leg-before decision against Mahela Jayawardene with an incoming delivery; the batsman committed the folly of playing across. Praveen's first spell of 5-1-17-2 was influential.

Ashish Nehra's left-arm angle made this a new ball pairing of contrasts. Recovering swiftly from a strained glute, Nehra bowled with verve, angling his deliveries across, straightening the odd one and digging it short to force an error from the batsman.

He took out Kumar Sangakkara when the left-hander attempted to pull him from outside the off-stump.

Meanwhile, Tillakaratne Dilshan batted with typical flair. When Nehra pitched short, he pulled. A fuller length ball from Praveen Kumar was off-driven gloriously. And when Ishant Sharma, in for Abhimanyu Mithun, strayed in line, he was glanced fine.

However, Sri Lanka continued to lose ground. Thilan Samaraweera struggled before walking across to Ishant and mistiming a flick to short mid-wicket. The batting side had lost wickets and momentum.

With the team-management showing faith in him, Ravindra Jadeja bowled with greater control. The left-arm spinner castled Chamara Kapugedera when the batsman skipped down the track to a quicker, good length delivery, attempted a whip, and missed.

Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga b Praveen 0 (1b), T. Dilshan c Rohit b Ojha 45 (62b, 5x4), K. Sangakkara c Ojha b Nehra 2 (12b), M. Jayawardene lbw b Praveen 4 (11b), T. Samaraweera c Jadeja b Ishant 7 (23b, 1x4), A. Mathews lbw b Jadeja 15 (26b, 2x4), C. Kapugedera b Jadeja 10 (28b), S. Randiv c Raina b Ojha 43 (61b, 4x4), N. Kulasekara c Dhoni b Ishant 22 (30b, 3x4), S. Malinga st. Dhoni b Ojha 5 (12b, 1x4), D. Fernando (not out) 6 (11b); Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-7): 11; Total (in 46.1 overs): 170.

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Tharanga), 2-14 (Sangakkara), 3-23 (Jayawardene), 4-44 (Samaraweera), 5-82 (Dilshan), 6-83 (Mathews), 7-103 (Kapugedera), 8-142 (Kulasekara), 9-158 (Malinga).

India bowling: Praveen 8-2-20-2, Nehra 9-0-39-1, Ishant 9-1-32-2, Ojha 9.1-0-36-3, Jadeja 10-2-34-2, Sehwag 1-0-5-0.

India: D. Karthik c Kulasekara b Mathews 10 (35b), V. Sehwag (not out) 99 (100b, 11x4, 2x6), V. Kohli c Sangakkara b Fernando 0 (3b), Rohit lbw b Mathews 0 (2b), S. Raina c Tharanga b Fernando 21 (35b, 2x4), M.S. Dhoni (not out) 23 (38b, 2x4); Extras (b-5, lb-6, w-1, nb-6): 18; Total (for four wkts. in 34.3 overs): 171.

Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Karthik), 2-31 (Kohli), 3-32 (Rohit), 4-91 (Raina).

Sri Lanka bowling: Malinga 7-0-34-0, Kulasekara 5-0-23-0, Mathews 7-1-32-2, Fernando 8-0-33-2, Randiv 7.3-0-38-0 .

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