India square ODI series against Sri Lanka

August 20th, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Dambulla, (Sri Lanka) Aug 20 (IANS) Indian batsmen made heavy weather of an easy target before recovering to post a series levelling three wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the second one-day international here Wednesday. After bundling out the hosts for only 142 in 38.3 overs, the Indians found the going tough, with half of the side back into the pavillion with only 75 on the board.

However, a 60-run stand between skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (39) and debutant Subramaniam Badrinath (27 not out) enabled the visitors reach a winning 143 for seven with 62 balls to spare at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium.

Put in to bat, the Sri Lankans failed to negotiate a fabulous spell of swing bowling by Zaheer Khan (four for 21), giving the Indians an easy sking rate of only 2.86.

The sixth wicket partnership brought the Indians close to victory, before - with eight runs still needed - they lost both Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh in the space of three overs.

Badrinath in particular did exceptionally well on a difficult wicket against a bowling attack that had caused his team plenty of problems. He walked in with the total on 75 for five and was unbeaten on 27 having faced 57 balls when man of the match Zaheer the scored the winning runs.

Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Tushara Mirando and Ajantha Mendis picked up two wickets apiece, but Muttiah Muralitharan wasn not able to pick up a wicket.

It was a moral boosting win for the Indians, who had to drop opener Gautam Gambhir, suffering from a stiff neck. Hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag had already left home having twisted his ankle during practice a day before the first ODI.

While Kulasekara and Mirando did the early damage, freak spinner Mendis picked up Indian vice-captain Yuvraj Singh for a third successive time when he had the left-hander leg before wicket.

Dhoni then came and hit 39 and guided Badrinath along to square the series having suffered an eight-wicket loss Monday.

Known for low scoring games, the highest total scored here in Dambulla by a team is 282 in 24 matches so far.

The strong winds at this ground that generates from the adjoining Ibbankatuwa Tank, has always aided fast bowlers and Zaheer made most of the conditions. Bowling with the wind behind him, the left-arm seamer ripped through Sri Lanka’s top order by picking up Sanath Jayasuriya (13), Kumar Sangakkara (2), Mahela Jayawardene (2) and Chamara Kapugedara (0).

He claimed Sangakkara’s wicket in his very first over and then struck twice in his third over in the space of two balls by removing Jayawardene and Kapugedara to reduce Sri Lanka to ten for three. But the biggest blow for the hosts came when he had the dangerous Sanath Jayasuriya leg before wicket in his seventh over.

He bowled eight overs in his first spell and played a big part to reduce Sri Lanka to 33 for five.

After Sri Lanka slipped further to 44 for six, a face saving 74 run stand between tail-enders Mirando and Kulasekara helped them to reach 142. Mirando top scored with 44 in 46 balls with seven boundaries. Kulasekara made 25 while Dilhara Fernando and Muttiah Muralitharan chipped in with 12 and 11 runs respectively.

Praveen Kumar, who had done well against the Sri Lankans in the tri-nation Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia, came in for left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and finished with figures of three for 34 in his ten overs.

Offie Harbhajan Singh hastened the Sri Lankan demise by picking up two lower order wickets as the hosts were bowled out for their lowest total against India in Sri Lanka. Their previous lowest was the 181 scored in 2001 at the SSC.

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