Dambulla: They didn’t hang out the “Welcome back Roofie” signs here at Rangiri Stadium last night.
So Farveez (Roofie) Maharoof decided on his own gameplan, scripting a dramatic destructive hattrick instead and hung up his own welcome back sign against India. In an explosive three overs he destroyed India’s middle and lower-order that brought a “dead” Asia Cup game alive.
All it needed was 18 balls in which he grabbed four wickets for seven runs a return of 3-1-7-4. You are not going to get much better figures as he ended with a five-wicket haul and in a sense resurrected his career.
His hattrick is the first in an ODI by a Sri Lanka bowler since Lasith Malinga against South Africa in the West Indies three and a half-years ago. So, bravo pal, take a bow.
The result was how Sri Lanka coasted to an impressive seven wickets victory against India in an Asia Cup final dress rehearsal with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene doing what they know best, to bat with elegant flair and exuding charisma and style with a smile. They worked the ball into the gaps and had India struggling for answers.
It was their third-wicket partnership of 104, which steered the lads from the emerald isle home and had those thronging the upper terraces of the grandstand dancing in the isles with the local Tijuana Brass style “papare” band adding the to the carefree atmosphere.
Seven weeks ago the ousted selection mafia coterie headed by Ashantha de Mel rejected Kumar Sangakkara’s appeal to have Maharoof to join the squad in Florida for what has been the pathfinding T20 series. There were three selectors among quartet who had deliberately blocked the beanpole Delhi Daredevils all-rounder’s progress for the past 18 months.
He had been scheduled to tour northern Australia with Sri Lanka A for a series of limited overs games following a series of four-day matches, having his credentials rejected for the Zimbabwe triangular, despite the wishes of Sangakkara to have him included to get him back into bowling shape.
Fate took a hand days later when the selection committee was fired and Aravinda de Silva was installed as convener, recalling Maharoof to the side for this four-nations Asia Cup tournament. As De Silva said, Maharoof’s Dambulla record has been impressive down the years and the reason he was selected.
As the 25-year-old said at the post-match conference, it is a matter of getting the ball in the right areas. He was a shade rusty against Pakistan, giving away 53 runs in his eight overs. The result was he went to work in the nets and was prepared to show what he can do, given the chance.
Although it was a “dead” game and Sri Lanka coasted home in the 38th over of the innings, with Jayawardene at four scoring the winning runs with a slog-sweep boundary of Jadeja, two of the three defining moments of the innings involved Maharoof: the diving catch by Sangakkara that dismissed a tentative Zaheer Khan that gave him the hattrick and the yorker that bowled Ashok Dinda.
The first important moment was when Chamara Kapugedara’s swoop on the ball and direct throw at the stumps from the point region that ran out MS Dhoni. From that point the innings was a mismatch. In a sense, India’s middle and lower-orders engineered their own downfall and became the architects of their own defeat. They had no answers to the Sri Lanka bowling combinations and the selectors now have a problem whether Maharoof should be included in Thursday’s final.
Rangana Herath, also given his first game in the tournament picked up two wickets, the first was that of Indian selectors favourite Dinesh Karthik, who was fooled by a delivery and it took Billy Bowden an age to award the bowler the wicket, the result being that Karthik failed again.