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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Asia Cup-2014: Sri Lanka On Top, Do Or Die India Vs Pakistan Tomorrow!



Kumar Sangakkara
Team India seems to be suffering from the overseas hangover in terms of missed opportunities, weak bowling by the pacers in particular, indifferent fielding and Virat Kohli centric batting line-up. In their second match of the on-going Asia Cup-2014 in Bangladesh against Sri Lanka last evening India dropped as many as five catches, other run-leaking fielding lapses, ineffectual bowling by the fast bowlers, a huge stumping chance gone a begging and a batting performance somewhat saved again by a Kohli-Dhawan partnership.  Thanks to the duo it was good going at 130/1 in the 27th over when Ajantha Mendis, the continuing mystery for Indian batsmen, struck and struck and struck reducing India to 200/5 in the 40th over making them crawl. Some lusty hitting by Jadeja and Shami enabled the team to reach a somewhat competitive total of 264/9. However, with the aforesaid hangover still lingering it was finally not enough for a strong Sri Lanka. Spinners Ashwin and Jadeja did create winning opportunities, but once they ran out of their overs Sri Lanka, with Sangakkara batting on brilliantly, easily overcame the pacers winning the match by 2 wickets with 4 balls to spare.

Both are proven masters in dry and slow pitches. On this day Sri Lankan masters prevailed with their slow bowlers controlling and suffocating the Indian masters. India sorely missed a third spinner after having Amit Mishra in reserve. They decided to give a second ODI opening to all-rounder Stuart Binny, but it was a totally wasted effort. One could say that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not missed as a captain, but he was definitely missed as a batsman in the middle order especially on his favorite sub-continental pitches. Continuing with his tremendous batting form from the first match against Pakistan keeper Kumar Sangakkara notched up a super hundred (103 off 84 balls). What was more significant about his innings was that he stuck on to his job ensuring his team’s victory and leaving India ruing the stumping chance offered by him early on that keeper Dinesh Kartick could not capitalize upon.  The Scorecard:

Sri Lanka have already defeated both of the strong contenders Pakistan (Sri Lanka winning a thriller by 12 runs in the opening match on 25th February with a magnificent Malinga burst of 5 wickets) and India, and now faced with only the minnows, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, they are almost through to the final. India and Pakistan are in similar positions—the former depending heavily on Kohli to beat Bangladesh and the latter winning easily against Afghanistan. Therefore, tomorrow’s match would be a do or die encounter for both to stay alive for a place in the final. Since it is now almost confirmed that only one of them would possibly reach the final the Super Sunday encounter tomorrow between the arch-rivals is set to be the virtual final of the Asia Cup-2014 for millions of fans worldwide. At home Bangladesh is not exactly a minnow, but with their present team issues and their skipper’s fitness problem it will be uphill for them to reach the final. However, used to causing major upsets rather consistently Bangladesh is still a force to reckon once they win the match against Afghanistan tonight. Stand-in Indian captain Virat Kohli has a lot at stake presently in terms of giving good leadership and doling out brilliant performances with the bat.
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