India thrash Sri Lanka, reach finals against Australia

February 26th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by admin  

(Roundup)

Hobart, Feb 26 (IANS) An all-round performance helped India beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in a must-win encounter here Tuesday and seal their place in next month’s finals against Australia in the Commonwealth Bank Triangular Series. Pacers Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma bagged four-wicket hauls while Sachin Tendulkar (54 balls, 10×4s) and in-form Gautam Gambhir (89 balls, 5×4s) each scored 63 to ensure that India won with ease. Gambhir and Rohit Sharma (3) remained unbeaten till the end.

Praveen, who took his career-best haul, and Ishant first helped bundle out Sri Lanka for 179 in 47.1 overs. Then Tendulkar rediscovered his form and raised 102 runs with Gambhir for the second wicket to take India to 180 for three wickets and win with 17.4 overs to spare in front of a small crowd at the scenic Bellerive Oval.

The best-of-three finals will be played March 2, 4 and 7.

India’s win meant the last match of the league phase, between Australia and Sri Lanka in Melbourne Friday, will be of academic interest only.

India ended their league engagements with 17 points from eight matches while Australia had earlier ensure their entry into the finals with 26 points from seven matches.

Even if Sri Lanka, who have only six points from seven matches, beat Australia with a bonus point, it will take their points tally only to 11.

It was almost a cakewalk for India in Tuesday’s match. The only failure of the day was Robin Uthappa (11, 13 balls, 1×4), who was promoted to open the innings with Tendulkar, replacing Virender Sehwag who was dropped again.

Uthappa’s dismissal brought Tendulkar and Gambhir together and they never looked in any sort of difficulty as they virtually toyed with a six-man bowling attack.

They played their strokes freely as the Sri Lankans looked despondent, as if they knew they were not going to win after their batsmen had failed again.

Yuvraj Singh also came good with 36 (35 balls, 4×4s, 1×6) and was involved in a 51-run third-wicket stand with Gambhir.

Earlier, Praveen bagged his first wicket in ODIs, the prized scalp of Kumar Sangakkara (33, 42 balls, 4×4s), and went on to dismiss captain Mahela Jayawardene (3), Chamara Silva (0) and Muttiah Muralitharan (13) to hasten the fall of Sri Lanka after they were put in to bat by toss-winning India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Uttar Pradesh’s Praveen, playing only his third match, finished with excellent figures of 10-2-31-4.

Praveen’s pace partner Ishant, the find of the ongoing tour, bagged his second four-wicket haul. For Sri Lanka, Chamara Kapugedera was the top scorer with a fine 57 (86 balls, 4×4s) - the lone half-century of the innings.

Sanath Jayasuriya (34, 44 balls, 2×4s, 1×6) and Sangakkara chipped in with useful contributions, but crucially, the rest of the batsmen failed.

After lanky Ishant castled opener Dilruwan Perera cheaply, Sangakkara and former captain Jayasuriya joined hands to add 57 for the second wicket. They batted for 10.5 overs also scored at a good rate of 5.26 runs per over.

Then Praveen got into the act to cripple the Sri Lankan top order with three wickets in three successive overs, getting rid of the cream of the batting.

In the very next over, left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan added to Sri Lanka’s miseries by inducing an edge from the dangerous Jayasuriya to wicketkeeper Dhoni as he tried to play the hook. It was Dhoni’s 100th career catch in his 104th ODI.

Kapugedera and Lasith Malinga (12) defied the Indian bowlers for 13 overs to add 46 for the eighth wicket and then the 21-year-old right-hander added a crucial 40 for the ninth wicket with Muralitharan that made the total look somewhat respectable, though inadequate to challenge India.

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