India beat Sri Lanka, cruise into Asia Cup final (Lead, With comments)

July 4th, 2008 - 1:55 am ICT by IANS  

By K. Hussain
Karachi, July 4 (IANS) India marched into the Asia Cup final with a ruthless batting display, beating Sri Lanka by six wickets with 19 balls to spare in their last encounter in the Super-Four stage here at the National Stadium Thursday night. Their triumph ended Pakistan’s hopes of making it to the title clash as they joined Sri Lanka in Sunday’s final thanks to major contributions from in-form opener Gautam Gambhir (68), skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (67) and Suresh Raina (54).

Chasing 309 to win on a flat wicket, India were never in any kind of trouble once openers Gambhir and Virender Sehwag gave them a flying start. The duo put up 92 in 70 balls to lay a solid platform the run chase.

“The openers did well once again,” said a beaming Dhoni who must have been under pressure after losing to Pakistan the other night. “It was a good win and now are fully focused on the final.”

The Sri Lankans lacked the aggression they had displayed earlier in the contest perhaps because of the fact that they were already in the final.

Sehwag was in full flow hitting a 34-ball 42 with six fours and a six. Gambhir faced 61 balls for his 68 and hit 11 fours.

Dhoni, who faced 62 balls for his 67, later put up 99 for the third wicket with Raina. Muthiah Muralitharan gave the batsmen a few problems in the middle overs but in the end Yuvraj Singh (36) and Rohit Sharma (22) guided India to a comfortable win.

Earlier, three fifties from their middle-order batsmen propelled defending champions Sri Lanka to 308 for the loss of eight wickets from 50 overs.

Chamara Kapugedera top scored with a sparkling 75 as skipper Mahela Jayawardene and Chamara Silva also struck identical fifties, enabling a relaxed Sri Lanka to put pressure on India, who have to win this match to qualify for Sunday’s final. The Sri Lankans are already in the final after collecting six points.

India posted a similar 308 for seven against Pakistan Wednesday night but crashed to an eight-wicket defeat in that high-scoring game.

Sri Lanka captain Jayawardene won the toss and elected to bat in perfect batting conditions. Pacer Ishant Sharma got rid of the dangerous openers - Kumar Sangakkara (7) and Sanath Jayasuriya (43) by the 12th over after Sri Lanka had scored 71. Jayasuriya was in top gear, hitting eight fours in his 37-ball knock.

Jayawardene then put a 78-run fourth wicket stand with Kapugedara before falling to spinner Pragyan Ojha after scoring 50 off 63 balls with six hits to the fence.

Kapugedara kept building the innings and in Silva found an able partner. The two added 68 runs before the former was sent back by medium pacer Praveen Kumar with an LBW decision in the 38th over. His 75 came off 78 balls and was punctuated with seven fours and a six. Silva made 50 off 56 balls before getting run out.

Sharma had returned best figures (2/55) while Rudra Pratap Singh was the most disciplined bowler finishing with 1/44. All-rounder Irfan Pathan was not in his element once again, giving away 80 in 10 overs for a solitary wicket.

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