India produced one of their best bowling and fielding shows since the beginning of the series against Sri Lanka at home. An eight-wicket win with a bonus point took them to Wednesday’s final against the same opponents.
After getting a peek into the Sri Lanka tail well within the first 20 overs, the intensity dropped once the ball got older. The last four wickets lasted another 28 overs.
But then, the late resistance should not worry skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni much because right through the series, he has said the only time bowlers have a chance is when the ball is new.
Young off-spinner Suraj Randiv’s stand with skipper Kumar Sangakkara and then with Thilan Thushara somewhat steadied Sri Lanka’s batting. But a target of just 214 was never going to bother a team batting second in such conditions.
Sunday was the first time Sri Lanka decided to bat first and their show looked ordinary at the Sher-e Bangla National Stadium. Already in the final, Sangakkara perhaps wanted his team to get a feel of what could be in store batting first in the series.
Sri Lanka’s start wasn’t good. Sudip Tyagi, who replaced Ashish Nehra, picked up Upul Tharanga in the first over and the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan was sent back by Zaheer Khan following a super catch by Gautam Gambhir at gully. The ball was dying on him and Gambhir dived in front to pick it inches from the ground.
There was a marked improvement in catching by others as well. Dinesh Karthik, who filled in for a ‘rested’ Virender Sehwag, took a good one at slip to dismiss Tharanga and Yuvraj Singh took two well-judged catches.
Dhoni’s tirade against the bowlers after the match against Bangladesh must have worked. Tyagi, who played first in the abandoned match in Delhi, bowled with heart initially. He did get some harsh treatment from Dilshan but tried bowling to the field.
Zaheer was in splendid form, his three wickets fetching him the Man-of-the-Match award. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who replaced Harbhajan Singh, too had a decent outing and picked up three wickets.
He was wayward once in a while but with the wicket offering some turn once the ball was changed, Mishra had the Sri Lanka lower order in trouble.
Ensuring a final berth would mean India have an opportunity of trying out youngsters again on Monday, in an inconsequential match against Bangladesh.
This could mean Ashok Dinda and Rohit Sharma getting a look in.