India self-destructed in Hambantota to hand Sri Lanka the match on a platter.
India’s openers had gotten the start of the innings off on a good note, reaching 31 in the fourth over without any risks. But once Virender Sehwag punched a length ball back to Thisara Perera and was caught and bowled for 15 off the final ball of the fourth over, India proceeded to lose three more wickets for the addition of ten runs.
A score of 31 for 1 became 41 for 4 in a matter of minutes as India’s batsmen succumbed to tidy and purposeful yet hardly menacing medium pace stuff from Perera and Angelo Mathews. Virat Kohli poked an edge to Kumar Sangakkara off Perera in the sixth over; in the seventh a woefully out-of-form Rohit Sharma dragged a harmless delivery from Mathews back onto his stumps for 0; in the eighth over Suresh Raina also chopped onto his stumps for 1.
In a trice, Perera had the outstanding figures of 3-3-0-3 and India were on a downward spiral.
Flabby in the middle
A situation of 41 for 4 could have been resuscitated into a decent score, but India’s lower middle order came a cropper. MS Dhoni failed to cash in on a drop on 0 at first slip. Instead of steadying himself and taking a cue from an obdurate Gautam Gambhir at the other end, he kept playing his shots and this led to his dismissal in the 15th over.
Looking to cut ball from Mathews that was too close to his body, Dhoni ended up flashing to Sangakkara. With their captain and middle-order heavyweight gone, the pressure told on India.
Irfan Pathan, picked as India’s No. 7 for this tour, appeared to be ready to bide his time as he reached 6 off 17 deliveries. But then on his 18th, he needlessly tried a big shot and holed out to mid-off.
Gambhir and R Ashwin put on 28 before a comical run-out ended their alliance. Ashwin cut the ball to third man and ran two but then called Gambhir back for a third; he was sent back but turned too slowly and failed to cover ground quickly. Even a dive couldn’t save him. At the other end, Gambhir looked livid.
Sehwag drops Dilshan
During the first ODI, Sehwag had spilled a regulation catch at slip off Tillakaratne Dilshan. Then it had not counted for much as the Sri Lankan fell soon after, but today another gaffe proved costly.
In the fourth over of Sri Lanka’s chase, Dilshan flashed at a delivery from Irfan and got a thick outside edge. The ball flew towards Sehwag’s face and he clasped at it but it popped out and ran away for two runs.
India needed a breakthrough early but denied it, they flattened out. Dilshan got 50 off 49 balls.
Generous Zaheer and Irfan
When you have few runs to defend, its imperative that a team’s bowlers hit their straps from the word go and try to make run-scoring as tough as possible. But India’s left-arm new-ball pair bowled wayward lines and between them conceded 14 runs through wides (there were 24 extras in all).
Zaheer’s first ball was a wide down the leg side; his second went for two wides in the wind; there were two more wides before the over was up. Irfan bowled four wides in the eighth over. By the time an early dinner was taken after nine overs, India had already given up.