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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Micromax Cup Cricket: India Win A Thriller Against Sri Lanka!


India broke today Sri Lanka’s record of never losing a one day match at home after setting a 250+ target batting first against any team. And, the partnership that broke the record was the highest Indian sixth wicket partnership against SL in SL. Suresh Raina (65 off only 45 balls) and Irfan Pathan (34 off 31) crafted an exhilarating unbeaten partnership of 92 runs off 69 ball to romp India home in a thriller going down the wire.
For the third one day international of the Micromax Cup between India and Sri Lanka the venue shifted to Preamdasa Stadium in Colombo. Both the teams made one change each. India brought in pacer Dinda in place of expensive Yadav and SL replaced out-of-form Thirimanne with Jevan Mendis. And, SL won the toss this time electing to bat first.
Batting first on a pitch that offered both bounce and movement Sri Lanka was in trouble immediately. Relishing the conditions Indian star pacer Zaheer Khan found his best immediately and captured the wickets of both the openers, Dilshan and Tharanga, in quick time. Irfan Pathan who could swing the ball too in favorable conditions caught Chandimal leg before wicket and SL were reduced to 20/3 in the 6th over. But unlike India SL did not capitulate from then onwards.
Sangakkara (73) and skipper Mahela Jaywardene (65) showed their class and concentrated on building the innings, mixing aggression with care, taking Sri Lanka to a position of considerable safety at 141/4 in the 30th over when Mahela got out. The SL innings never lost momentum and a terrific unbroken partnership between Mathews (71) and newcomer Jevan Mendis (45) took the score to 286/5 in allotted 50 overs. It was a very competitive score and the match was tantalizingly set up for a tight finish.
Chasing a stiff target of 287 runs India did not start well with an uncertain Sehwag falling to Perera in the 2nd over. Gambhir who had been stroking the ball well from early on found an able partner in Virat Kohli and they batted on aggressively to create a launching pad to chase down the target. A run-rate of almost 6 runs per over was maintained throughout their entertaining partnership. Sri Lankan tactics to rush through the overs by their spinners proved successful as Herath captured an impatient Kohli caught and bowled in the 21st over with India at 113/2. Neither Rohit Sharma, Indian skipper Dhoni’s blue eyed boy, nor Suresh Raina came in; instead, Dhoni put himself in at that juncture surprising everyone. He could have played a masterstroke then and there. With Gambhir continuing from his good knock in the last match Dhoni succeeded in scripting a fruitful partnership. Dhoni opted for the batting powerplay in the 35th over.
But alas, the SL striker Malinga had still five over left. He was reintroduced the moment batting powerplay was taken and he produced two perfect yorkers. The first one cleaned bowled the skipper and the second one got his blue eyed boy lbw for a first ball duck. Malinga was on a hattrick and India were suddenly reduced to 180/4 in the 36th over needing 107 runs 88 balls. The ominous batting powerplay played spoilsport for India one more time! Raina played the hattrick ball for a single. The Sri Lanka crowds sensed a rout and started supporting their team with vigor. Tension built up for the Indian fans.
Gautam Gambhir completed a brilliant century of 102 runs off 101 balls, but immediately after fell run out to a direct throw by Udana with India still needing 91 runs in 69 balls. That was distinctly advantage Sri Lanka as the last recognized Indian batting pair was in. But Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan had other ideas. 
Mixing aggression with caution, subduing impulses with discretion the pair went on stoutly with the asking rate touching almost 9 per over and overcame all hurdles. Finally they made it 12 runs of 12 balls and from that position India could not afford to lose with five wickets still in hand. India reached 288/5 in the 4th ball of the last over and won by 5 wickets with 2 balls to spare. Sri Lankan crowds were disappointed, but they appreciated a match that was a real edge of the seat affair. Dashing Suresh Raina was the natural choice for the Man of the Match award.
India go up 2-1 in the Micromax Cup ODI cricket series against Sri Lanka with the fourth match coming up on July 31 in Colombo. The Scorecard:
A memorable treat of an absolute cricket cliffhanger that would perhaps lessen the disappointment of a bad Indian first day at the London Olympics today after a dazzling opening ceremony last night.
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