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West Indies Tri-Nation Series – SL vs IND: Tharanga, Jayawardene Cane India

By on July 3, 2013

West Indies Tri-Nation Series – SL vs IND: Upul TharangaSri Lanka 348 for 1 (Tharanga 174*, Jayawardene 107, Mathews 44*) beat India 187 (Jadeja 49*, Herath 3-37) by 161 runs…

“Can’t seem to win a toss,” Angelo Mathews said suggesting he can’t catch a break nowadays when Sri Lanka were inserted on a track that has responded to West Indies quicks better than best of butlers. Four hours later, we had the first instance of an innings in a 50-over international ending with just one wicket down. Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene made a mockery of the teams’ suspicion of the damp surface with their 213-run opening, Sri Lanka’s second-best stand against India. Under the pressure of the mountain of runs, India huffed and puffed past… Upul Tharanga’s score of 174.

This was Jayawardene’s first ODI century in two years and 50 innings, but it was Tharanga who claimed an illustrious record en route his highest ODI score. This was the seventh time he was involved in a double-century partnership, joint-highest along with Ricky Ponting. Tharanga’s was the third-highest individual score against India; four out of the best five individual efforts against India have come from Sri Lanka. Both, though, benefitted from some generous Indian fielding and bowling: Jayawardene was dropped on 25, Tharanga was missed on 2 and 91.

Generally, too, India – missing the injured MS Dhoni – lacked the edge both with the ball and in the field. Apart from not being able to take wickets, India were pretty loose with the ball. At the death, they kept bowling length, went for at least one boundary in every over since the Powerplay was taken in the 35th over, and conceded 180 in the last 16 overs. Tharanga’s acceleration was stark: from 72 off 105 to the eventual 174 off 159.

Captaining India for the first time, Virat Kohli brought in Shami Ahmed ahead of Buvneshwar Kumar, a move that will be debated. Bhuvneshwar gave India breakthroughs with the new ball in most of the matches he played, but Shami didn’t pose any threat. Another man coming in, M Vijay, dropped Jayawardene.

The Sri Lanka openers gave the pitch the respect the first two low-scoring matches have accorded it, but it was obvious that either the track was much drier or it was the West Indies fast bowlers who exploited the moisture much better. Of the three quicks, only Umesh Yadav extracted some help from the pitch, but he too strayed with his length, allowing Tharanga to play his favourite cut shot often. The innings’ first boundary came through that cut. Ishant Sharma, at third man, made an equal contribution by letting the ball through. By then, Rohit Sharma had missed a half chance when he failed to hit the only stump visible from point. Tharanga was only 2 then.

The first five overs brought only 16 runs, but soon the batsmen shed caution. Yadav’s pace was used well when lofted over the infield. And Ishant drew no respect. Jayawardene walked down the wicket to loft him over long-on, and in the same over Yadav misfielded at fine leg to return the favour to the bowler.

Ravindra Jadeja was the first to draw a risky approach from Sri Lanka, but Vijay dropped the reverse hit at shortish backward point. Jayawardene rubbed it in when he reversed Jadeja emphatically for a four later, but it was his chips over extra cover off both the spinners that were delightful. Tharanga, meanwhile, was happy to be inconspicuous.

It was perplexing that India introduced R Ashwin in the 20th over, and by then Sri Lanka had reached 90 without much trouble. Jayawardene was 49 off 58 then, and Tharanga 36 off 56. The same trend continued as Jayawardene kept hitting the odd boundary in the middle overs and almost on auto-pilot they had strolled to 168 in 34 overs.

Sri Lanka now asked for the field to come up, and Tharanga opened up. He went after both Ashwin and Ishant, and by the time Jayawardene fell for 107 he was ready to take control. Just before that, he had been dropped by Yadav at third man, again off Ishant. Almost without taking a risk, Tharanga kept getting inside the line and carting the Indian bowlers.

The 49th over, bowled by Yadav, was a complete bowling meltdown. Yadav began with a low full toss, which was sliced for a flat six over point. Then he saw Mathews back away, and bowled five wides. Two fours later, he had conceded 22 to finish with the worst economy rate of the innings. Tharanga was not done yet, and hit another six over extra cover, this time off Shami. Tharanga was so dominant that Mathews scored only 44 off the 135-run stand between them.

Mathews was in his element in the field. He surprised India by taking one of the new balls, and began with the first maiden of the match. Rohit was soon caught at short midwicket, and Mathews didn’t allow India any pace to work with. Both the spinners were introduced within the mandatory Powerplay, by the end of which India had only 28 runs. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli fell to that pressure, and M Vijay followed soon. The rest was merely an official stamp on India’s biggest defeat after putting a side in.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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