Sport

Unbeaten: India marches into Champions Trophy finals

By Antoinette Muller 21 June 2013

India crushed Sri Lanka by eight wickets in their semi-final clash in Cardiff on Thursday and booked their spot in the finals of the competition. They’ll play England in Birmingham and both on paper and in play, India have looked the far superior side. BY ANTOINETE MULLER.

India continued their unbeaten run and their dominance in the one-day format by beating Sri Lanka by eight wickets in their semi-final clash in Cardiff on Thursday. Despite India’s bowling being written off at the start of the tournament, they proved once again that they are one of the most well-rounded sides in world cricket and even Ishant Sharma can have a good day when he puts his mind to it.

After a burst of rain early in the morning, India won a delayed toss and elected to field. Bhuvneshwar Singh continued to impress while Kusal Perera continued to look at the sea and was dismissed in the third over. India kept things tight and tidy, neatly packaged deliveries that forced errors and kept Sri Lanka contained, rather than a brutal attack. Dilshan had earlier hurt a muscle in his leg and even though he bravely tried to soldier on, with a combination of on-field physio treatment and magic spray, he had to hobble off with the help of some of the team management in the fifth over.

Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara both failed to make an impact and Sri Lanka were soon looking a bit stuck at 41-3, all thanks to some good bowling from Ishant Sharma – for the first time this tournament. Using the bounce in the pitch and his height, Ishant bowled a good line and his consistency was rewarded.

Sri Lanka are not a team to give up without at least a bit of fight, though, and Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews combined for 78-run stand for the fourth wicket to reignite some Sri Lankan hopes. But Jayawardene was always going to get frustrated. While he does possess enough patience to bat for days in Test matches, his one-day style doesn’t quite lend itself to such constraints and being five for 19 would’ve surely played on his mind.

MS Dhoni bringing himself on to bowl would also have played on his mind. The Indian skipper nearly bagged a wicket off his second ball, too, with Jayawardene given out leg-before but was saved upon reviewing the decision due to an inside edge on the bat. Crawling his way to seven off 26 balls, Jayawardene briefly found some relief through a few boundaries, but India’s spinners were far too precise and cunning, even for a veteran like Jayawardene.

Ravi Jadeja eventually put him out of his misery in the 37th over, with Jayawardene dragging his bat down and a boisterous delivery rattling his stumps – the former skipper sent on his way for 38 off 63.

Sri Lanka had recovered somewhat, with the score at 119-4 after 36.1, the Mathews had time to take it steady and shepherd the tail and he did so for nearly 10 overs before he too was sent on his way. A rather irresponsible shot from Mathews, where he tried to hoick it over the legside, fell safely in the hands of Kumar instead and the Sri Lankan collapse was on.

The islanders went from 158-5 to 181 all out, with bruised and battered Dilshan doing his best to fight without going down.

On paper, Sri Lanka had one weapon: Lasith Malinga, but his reputation precedes him and he’s nothing more than Virat Kohli’s bunny when these two sides square off. In the 16 ODIs they have played against each other, Malinga has managed just 21 wickets, at a staggering average of 44.23, compared to his usual 26.37.

But before Sri Lanka could even start to think about Kohli, they first had to get through Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Although Sharma was dismissed early on, the foundation had been set with a 77-run opening partnership on the board.

Kohli strolled out to the middle to join Dhawan for what would be a master class in chasing. India looked like they were batting on a completely different wicket. Dhawan, the leading run scorer in the competition by a fair way, continued to show that he is not a fluke and he is well on his way to become one of India’s most valuable assets.

There was some consolation for Sri Lanka in dismissing Dhawan for 68, but India came at their neighbours from all angles and Kohli, with a fine 58 off 64, and Suresh Raina saw their side home as they chased down 182 in just 35 overs.

The Sri Lankan skipper believed the pitch did become easier to bat on, but credited the Indian bowlers for their performances.

“I thought most of the pitches, wherever we played, got easier batting second. At The Oval, when we played against Australia, it was slow and not coming on like it was easier to bat on in the second half. I would say there was a bit of help for the bowlers, so the credit should go to the Indian bowlers. They bowled well and they hit the good areas and it was difficult for us,” Mathews said afterwards.

India now face one last test: England in Birmingham on Sunday. They have looked far superior to their hosts, but cricket is a funny game and anything can happen. Provided the rain stays away, of course. DM

Result summary

Sri Lanka 181/8 (50 ov)

Mahela Jayawardene 38 (63), Angelo Mathews 51 (89); Ishant Sharma 9-1-33-3, Ravi Ashwin 10-1-48-3

India 182/2 (35.0 ov)

Shikhar Dhawan 68 (92), Virat Kohli 58* (64), Angelo Mathews 4-0-10-1, Jeevan Mendis 3-0-28-1

India won by eight wickets.

Photo: A protester is tackled to the ground after running onto the field holding a sign protesting against Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the ICC Champions Trophy semi final match between Sri Lanka and India at Cardiff Wales Stadium in Wales June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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