Colombo:Sri Lanka were outpaced, out-thought and outplayed in their own conditions as M.S. Dhoni led India to one its finest series wins, at the Premadasa Stadium on Wednesday night.
India won the fourth one-day international by 46 runs, and with it, took an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series. This is India's first ODI series win on Lankan soil, in their fourth attempt.
Having elected to bat, India's innings was many passages of ebbs and flow. Dhoni's hectic 71 (80 balls, 4x4) in sapping heat, and his 143-run association with the fluent Suresh Raina (76, 78b, 6x4, 1x6) could have taken India to a much bigger score than 258. But Thilan Thushara completed his first fiver (5-47) and India lost 7 wickets for 34 runs in the final nine overs.
After Munaf Patel made two new-ball strikes, Sanath Jayasuriya's murderous 60 (52 balls, 8x4, 2x6) set the tone for Lanka's chase. But with the pitch taking turn, India choked the run rate. Harbhajan's 3-40 and Yuvraj Singh's useful 2-53 got India wickets by the heaps in the middle stages and settled the game by the 35th over.
The visitors had been less than average throughout the tour. Sri Lanka had trounced them 2-1 in the Tests, and crushed them again in the first ODI. With their batsmen in poor form, India were clearly the underdogs. But their bowlers rose to the occasion thrice in a row to complete a significant series win.
Handy start, poor finish
Dhoni read the toss right and put his batsmen in. The innings was provided momentum by Virat Kohli's first fifty in ODIs. The feisty Delhi batsman raced to 54 (66b, 7x4) before playing Thushara on.
Earlier, Gautam Gambhir wasted a good start (17, 21b, 1x4) and drove a wide ball to point off Nuwan Kulasekara. Yuvraj continued to disappoint with the bat. He scored a duck, popping an easy catch to midwicket, giving Chaminda Vaas his 400th ODI wicket.
At 81-3, Dhoni brought calm to the crease. With Raina, he milked Mendis and Murali for ones and twos. Before Mahela Jayawardene had grasped the situation, India had the upper hand.
With the stage set for a big finish, Raina drove an easy catch to wide long-off. Eight runs later, a tired Dhoni, who had been taking liquids after every over, slapped a catch to cover.
S Badrinath, Harbhajan, Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan offered little or no resistance. Three hundred looked within reach but India finished with 258 instead.
Bowlers win the game
The lanky bowler has been in good touch this series. A straight ball helped send back Brendon Warnapura - who made an 18-ball duck - LBW. Replays suggested that the ball would have gone over the stumps. It wasn't Billy Doctrove's only mistake on the night.
Kumar Sangakkara's poor run (6 runs, 16b, 1x4) continued. He played Munaf on trying to push him through the cover. Jayasuriya was in a destructive mood, punishing bowlers for boundaries all around the park. He was harsh on Munaf, pulling him for two sixes.
The introduction of Harbhajan into the attack turned the game around. With the ball turning a long way, Jayasuriya steered the offie into Raina's hands at first slip. Raina tumbled to his left and hung on to the catch. The 39-year-old had scored 60 of the 74 runs at his fall.
Jayawardene (16 off 40) held fort with Chamara Kapugedera before a misunderstanding resulted in the Lankan captain's run out. Tillakaratne Dilshan (12 off 22, 1x4) fell LBW to a quicker ball from Harbhajan.
Kapugedera then prodded before a Yuvraj delivery. Replays suggested he got a huge edge on the ball, but Doctrove gave it LBW. Soon, Vaas also fell LBW to Yuvraj.
India were given a scare by Thushara who backed up his fiver with a combative 40 (29 balls, 2x4, 2x6). But his stint with the tail did not last long as Kulasekara and Mendis fell cheaply. Thushara was the last out, holing out to deep midwicket.