Tendulkar's brilliance gives India 2-1 lead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/sachin09-sl-cuttack.jpg' class='caption'> A solid yet dazzling knock of 96 runs from master batsman Sachin Tendulkar steered India to a 7-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the third ODI at Cuttack.

Updated: December 21, 2009 17:02 IST
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Sachin Tendulkar cracked a fluent unbeaten 96 as India spanked a hapless Sri Lanka by seven wickets in a low-scoring third One-Day International to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series here on Monday.

Chasing 240 for a win, Tendulkar played the sheet anchor as he ensured that India overhaul the Sri Lankan target comfortably with more than seven overs to spare at the jam-packed Barabati Stadium here.

Stand-in-captain Virender Sehwag contributed a breezy 28-ball 44 while Dinesh Karthik and Gautam Gambhir made unbeaten 36 and 32 respectively as India reached 242 for three in 42.4 overs.

Earlier, young all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja turned the game over its head with his career-best bowling figures of 4/32 as India came back strongly in the second half of Sri Lankan innings to bundle them out for 239 in 44.2 overs after the visitors chose to bat.

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Sri Lanka were looking strong to even each 300 at 169 for two in the 25th over before losing way. Jadeja triggered the Lankan batting collapse by removing opener Upul Tharanga who top-scored with 73. The visitors, in fact, lost their last eight wickets for the addition of just 70 runs.

Tendulkar then ensured that fine show by the bowlers did not go waste as he first played second fiddle to Sehwag in the 55-run opening stand and then opened up to hit some delightful boundaries to take the home team past the Lankan total.

Tendulkar, who notched up his 93rd half century today, faced 104 balls and hit 13 fours in his knock.

The two sides now move to Kolkata for the fourth one-dayer on Thursday.

The Indian opening duo of Tendulkar and Sehwag found their rhythm early in the run chase with the Delhi dasher smashing 16 runs from Lasith Malinga's first over.

He hit nine boundaries, three each coming off Nuwan Kulasekara, Malinga and Chanaka Welegedara and all three of them in an over of each bowler. Welegedara broke the opening stand of 55 by dismissing Sehwag in the seventh over.

Unaffected by Sehwag's dismissal, Tendulkar took the Indian chase forward playing sensibly as he added 72 runs with Gambhir before the left-hander became the victim of rookie off-spinner Suraj Randiv who took a low catch off his own bowling.

Tendulkar, who reached his fifty off 52 balls, later opened up to play some exquisite shots through the gaps to the boundary to the delight of the packed Barabati crowd.

In one shot, he improvised on a late cut when he arched his back for an upper cut to a rising Kulasekara delivery that raced over the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper's head for a boundary.

Yuvraj Singh (23 from 40 balls) did not have a memorable outing after a 42-run partnership with Tendulkar as he became Welegedara's second victim.

Dinesh Karthik, who had a tough time behind the stumps, gave a fine support to Tendulkar at the other end remaining unbeaten on 36 from 32 balls with one big six and five fours.

Earlier, Jadeja produced his career-best four-wicket haul as India bundled out Sri Lanka for a modest 239.

Electing to bat, Sri Lanka made a rousing start before they lost way in the middle overs as Indian slow bowlers brought themselves back into the game.

Jadeja claimed four for 32 - his best from 12 ODIs - while Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma took two wickets apiece to bring an end to Sri Lanka innings in 44.2 overs.

Tharanga (73) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (41) gave Sri Lanka a perfect start going with a run rate in an excess of 10. Captain Kumar Sangakkara (46) then stood in a 100 run partnership with Tharanga as the Lankans looked set for a big score before the Indians came back strongly.

Sri Lanka scored 14 runs from the first over from Zaheer Khan, who struggled with his line with four wides. Runs came at ease for Sri Lanka who raced to 50 in 3.4 overs with Dilshan and Tharanga not giving time for Zaheer and Ishant Shrarma to settle down.

Zaheer conceded 26 runs from his first two overs before Sehwag brought in Ashish Nehra in the fifth over.

Nehra managed to curb Tharanga's strokeplay with four dot balls and his tight over almost gave India the breakthrough in the form of a suicidal run-out of Dilshan.

But Dinesh Karthik, who kept the wickets in place of regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, horribly messed it up after neatly collecting it.

The wicketkeeper had plenty of time to run out Dilshan but he missed the stumps completely from a close-in throw.

India, however, quickly got the breakthrough in Nehra's very next over when he dismissed the dangerman Dilshan as Sri Lanka lost their first wicket for 65.

A short delivery from Nehra tempted Dilshan for a pull shot that took the top edge as Karthik took the easy catch.

Sangakkara and Tharanga, however, ensured that the visitors maintain a good run-rate as Sri Lanka reached 150 in 19.4 overs. Tharanga completed his half-century from 51 balls.

Bringing himself in place of Nehra, Sehwag bowled a crucial four-over spell to break the century partnership between Sangakkara and Tharanga.

The Indian stand-in captain beat Sangakkara in the air and Karthik dismissed the Lankan stumped from a second attempt. Sangakkara hit three boundaries and one six.

Sangakkara's dismissal was followed by two quick wickets with the addition of just eight runs. Opener Thranga, looking good on 73, was brilliantly bowled by Ravindra Jadeja in his first over, while Mahela Jayawardene (2) followed suit in the next over as Sri Lanka were quickly reduced to 173 for four.

Continuing his tidy spell, Jadeja then castled Chamara Kapugedera (15) to pick his second wicket.

Having conceded 49 from his first four overs, pacer Ishant returned with a brilliant spell to dismiss Thilina Kandamby (22) and Suraj Randiv (0) in successive balls.

Jadeja then got his fourth victim before Nehra finished off the Sri Lankan innings.

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