MS Dhoni plays a pull shot against Sri Lanka
The usually big hitting Mahendra Singh Dhoni posted the winning runs and his half century with the same shot, leading India to a two-wicket win over Sri Lanka with five balls to spare in their tri-series limited-overs international.
Dhoni, expected to be one of the hottest commodities at Wednesday’s player auction for the new India Premier League Twenty20 series, shared a momentum-building 59-run fifth-wicket stand with Yuvraj Singh and finished unbeaten on 50.
He faced 68 balls but did not hit a boundary in a patient 2-hour, 20-minute innings to guide India to 239 for eight chasing Sri Lanka’s 238 for six in the narrowest result so far in the tournament.
Kumar Sangakkara provided the backbone of Sri Lanka’s innings, scoring 128 after going to the crease in the first over.
The win moved India to 12 points in the standings, five behind league-leading Australia and six in front of Sri Lanka.
Yuvraj held the top order together after a shaky start, belting 76 from 70 balls, including 10 boundaries and a six, after India lost star opener Sachin Tendulkar (0), Gautam Gambhir (15) and Robin Uthappa (10) to be struggling at 35-3.
“Tonight I thought three wickets down we couldn’t afford to give the batsmen lower down more than five an over to chase, so I went out to be aggressive,” Yuvraj said of his first 50 of the series.
His innings ended to a perfect yorker from Chaminda Vaas in the 33rd over.
Irfan Pathan added 31 with Dhoni and India was coasting to victory until Ishara Amerasinghe took wickets in consecutive overs and Lasith Malinga chimed in to send the game into the final over.
Dhoni hit Farveez Maharoof through the covers on the first ball of the final over to secure the win.
Sangakarra adds creditibility
Earlier, Sangakkara rescued Sri Lanka’s innings from a precarious start and combined with Mahela Jayawardene in a 153-run stand.
Sangakkara went in with the total at 4 for 1 in the first over when Tillakaratne Dilshan (4) was caught behind off Munaf Patel on the fourth ball.
He was joined by his skipper in the third over when veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya was unluckily run out at the non-striker’s end by Patel to make the total 6-2.
The third-wicket partnership ended when Jayawardene was run out for 71 in the 38th over after facing 99 balls.
Kapugedera was run out, the third such dismissal in the innings, six balls later as Sri Lanka slipped to 161-4 before Sangakkara and Chamara Silva combined in a 73-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Sangakkara’s seventh one-day international century lasted 155 balls and finally came to end on the last ball of the penultimate over, caught at deep mid-wicket off Pathan’s bowling.
Sri Lanka plays Australia in Melbourne on Friday in a match it must win to keep its chances of reaching the finals alive.
“Every game now for us is like a semifinal where we’ve got to go out there and win each time,” Jayawardene said.