Saturday, April 2, 2011


Why India won

Superb fielding: India completely outfielded Lanka, with the fielders saving at least 30 runs. Yuvraj, Kohli and Raina outstanding

Restricted Lanka to 274: Sreesanth leaked runs and 63 runs were scored in the last 5 overs, but otherwise India bowled well. Zaheer’s opening spell of 5-3-6-1 was superb

Smart chase: The batsmen never let the asking rate climb too much. Dhoni's promoting himself ahead of Yuvraj proved a masterstroke

Why Sri Lanka lost

Flawed selection: The Lankans blundered, picking Kulasekara and Randiv ahead of Mendis

Sanga's error: Should have attacked with Malinga when Dhoni came to the crease, not waiting till he was well set

MSD's sound cricketing logic

Dhoni's move was backed by sound cricketing logic - it ensured that a left-right partnership would continue at the crease. Besides, having kept to Muralitharan and having played him in the nets during the legendary spinner's stint with Chennai Super Kings, Dhoni was probably better equipped to handle him than Yuvraj. But it was still a gamble.

It worked - and won India the match. Dhoni nudged and nurdled, ran hard, played the occassional big shot and constantly talked to Gambhir, calming him down when the Delhi batsman played a risky shot. The two put on a century stand - India's first ever in a World Cup final, and it looked as if India would canter home.

There was to be one more twist. Gambhir had some lucky moments, with Kulasekara dropping a tough chance when he was on 30, but had batted steadily to get to 97 when he played an ugly heave and was bowled. It was the highest score by an Indian on Saturday (incidentally, Gambhir had also top scored with 75 when Indian won the World T20) but his wicket at that stage gave Lanka a glimmer of hope.

It was a glimmer that man of the match Dhoni and man of the tournament Yuvraj snuffed out with brutal efficiency. There were some hiccups in the running between wickets, and Dhoni struggled with his back, but he was determined to see India home and he did - fittingly, with a magnificent six that showed he can still summon the dasher in him.

It was a fabulous ending to a day when much threatened to go wrong, starting with the toss. Both Dhoni and Sangakkara were convinced they had won the toss. Match referee Jeff Crowe, who had also presided over the farcical spectacle of the 2007 World Cup final ending in near darkness, said he hadn't heard Sangakkara's call. A re-toss took place, Sangakkara won and had no hesitation in batting first.

Given the fact that seven of the previous nine World Cup finals had been won by the team batting first, it was a cruel blow. India's best hope now lay in keeping Sri Lanka down to a manageable total. But Mahela Jayawardene had other ideas. Playing perhaps the most important match of his life, the elegant veteran paced his innings superbly. He purred along, all silken grace, at a run a ball through most of his innings before exploding towards the end to bring up a well-deserved century.

It didn't help that Sreesanth, picked ahead of Ashwin, leaked 52 runs from 8 overs. To make matters worse, Kulasekara slammed 32 off 30 balls and Perera bludgeoned 22 off just 9 as Lanka raced to 274/6 off 50 overs. A whopping 63 runs were scored in the batting powerplay during overs 46-50, turning what would have been a par score into a daunting one.

It was the best batting powerplay for the Lankans throughout the tournament. In a cruel irony, it was scored in the same match in which they scored their least runs during the mandatory first 10-over powerplay - just 31 runs coming off the first 10 overs as Zaheer befuddled the openers with a superb spell and induced a snick from Tharanga which was superbly snapped up by a diving Sehwag. Zaheer had three maidens in his first spell of 5 overs, in which he conceded just 6 runs while taking a wicket.

The other bowlers, with the exception of Sreesanth, put in disciplined spells and were backed up by some of the best fielding ever displayed by an Indian side. Raina and Kohli were outstanding as usual, Yuvraj turned back the years with a superb show and even 38-yearold Tendulkar flung himself around to cut off boundaries. Unfortunately for India, Jayawardene went from strength to strength. Seventeen runs came off Zaheer's ninth over and 18 off his 10th, including a last-ball six by Perera that rubbed salt into gaping wounds. For eight years, Zaheer has been haunted by the ghosts of the 2003 final, in which he conceded 15 runs off his very first over. He finished this Cup final with 2 wickets for 60 runs off 10 overs, but this time, there was to be a happy ending both for him and India.

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