India struggle past Sri Lanka to take 2-1 lead

August 25th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Aug 24 (IANS) India took a 2-1 lead in the five-match series, beating Sri Lanka by 33 runs in the third One-Day International at the R. Premedasa Stadium here Sunday.India struggled to put up 237 on board and despite pegging Sri Lanka back at 59 for six found them close to taking a lead in the five-match series.

Sri Lanka fought back well with skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s brilliant 94 but were bowled out for 204 with an over to spare. Jayawardene hardly got any support from top batsmen. But an unbeaten 30 from seamer Thilan Tushara helped to the take the battle to the wire.

At 59 for six, the game was done and dusted, but Jayawardene and Tushara added 91 runs for the eighth wicket giving Sri Lanka a glimpse of hope.

Left arm seamer Zaheer Khan had caused plenty of problems in Dambulla and he continued to trouble the Sri Lankan top order with a fantastic spell of swing bowling.

While Zaheer accounted for two early wickets, Praveen Kumar, who shared the new ball with him, too picked up two wickets including the prize wicket of opener Sanath Jayasuriya.

Kumar got one to seam away from Jayasuriya (13) and trying to cut the ball on the back foot, the left-hander nicked one to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps. Zaheer, meanwhile, had Kumar Sangakkara (9) leg before wicket in the next over and also got Chamara Silva (1) in the same manner while Kumar accounted for Chamara Kapugedara (12)

The Sri Lankans struggled against the swinging ball under lights and after being reduced to 59 for six in the 18th over, they were fighting a losing battle and it looked from the outset that the Sri Lankan captain was only delaying the inevitable.

Having come to the middle in the sixth over, Jayawardene top scored with 94 and was dismissed with four overs to go. The 31-year-old showed plenty of character and saved the Sri Lankans from a certain embarrassing defeat. He was out when he failed to read Munaf Patel’s slower ball and trying to play a paddle sweep, lobbed one to Praveen Kumar at short fine leg and was robbed off a well deserved century.

Jayawardene batted for close to three hours and faced 111 balls and hit six fours and one six and towards the end had to call for a due to cramps.

The early collapse prevented the Sri Lankans from taking any advantage of the four men bowling combination that India had opted for the match having packed the side with seven batsmen.

Jayawardene had earlier lost his fifth straight to toss in the series, but did well to rotate his bowlers around and restrict the free scoring Indian batsmen to 237.

India’s total was boosted thanks to half-centuries by Suresh Raina (53) and Dhoni (76).

Raina was run out when he responded to a risky single having faced 80 balls and hit four boundaries and a six.

Dhoni, meanwhile, faced 80 balls and hit eight fours during his knock of 76 and was out in the penultimate over of the innings. He added 54 runs for the fifth wicket with Raina and less than run a ball 67 for the sixth wicket with Rohit Sharma, who hit 32 in 32 balls.

Spinner Ajantha Mendis had a rare off day and had only one wicket in his first nine overs, but bounced back in his last over by claiming two wickets in successive balls, that also included the wicket of the Indian captain.

Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilina Tushara Mirando ended with two wickets apiece, but veterans Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas went wicket less.

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