Sri Lanka v India, Asia Cup final, Dambulla June 24, 2010

Maharoof's nightmare, and a security guard's close call

Plays of the Day for the Asia Cup final between India and Sri Lanka in Dambulla

A full house, finally Crowds have been thin all tournament, but for the final fans poured into Dambulla. Deserted spots near the stadium morphed into parking lots, and Sri Lankan flags, usually prominent only near the venue, were flying most of the way from the town centre to the ground. Spectators were treated to an eclectic mix of piped music, including Punjabi, Sinhalese and hip-hop, and the bugle call that cricket appropriated from South African rugby also made a frequent appearance.

Keeping it edgy
In a line-up that usually contains the unorthodox and attention-grabbing trio of Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, the less flashy line-and-length work of Nuwan Kulasekara tends to get overlooked. In the final he showed his effectiveness. After beating Dinesh Karthik and inducing an edge from him past slip in the first over, he tormented Gautam Gambhir in the third. Gambhir couldn't get bat on ball on the stock indipper, had an overhead chance dropped at first slip next ball, before rounding off the over with a nick which the keeper, who was standing up, couldn't hold.

Eye off the ball
The number of police personnel keeping watch on the stands was double the usual due to the massive turnout for the final. These security people stand with their back to the action, and one of them was nearly injured in the line of duty when a monstrous hit for six from MS Dhoni over long-on landed just wide of her.

Me, worried about the short ball?
Suresh Raina has some well-documented troubles against the bouncer. Lasith Malinga tested Raina's technique against the short ball in the 41st over with a series of them, which the batsman survived, if awkwardly. The final delivery of the over, though, was a quick, swinging yorker and Raina was clueless against the surprise ball, getting trapped plumb in front.

The glorious uncertainties
"It was one of those days when everything went right," Farveez Maharoof said after taking his hat-trick on Tuesday. Two days later, nearly nothing did. His six overs were caned for 41 runs, including three lovely driven boundaries in four deliveries from Karthik through the off side. A difficult return chance didn't stick in the 14th over, MS Dhoni's punch to him at extra cover went through him and he made a hash of a simple stop at long-on when he didn't anticipate the ball's spin. About the only thing that went right was the straightforward catch he took to dismiss Rohit Sharma.

An early breakthrough
Praveen Kumar made his name in international cricket by removing Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting cheaply in both finals of the 2007-08 CB series. He repeated that trend of getting big wickets early by getting Tillakaratne Dilshan to mishit a pull to mid-on in the first over. That wicket buoyed India so much that there was applause for every small thing; for example, a regulation stop at third man by Ashish Nehra applauded by three team-mates.

Some late cheer
Some of the crowd started to trickle out of the stadium once Thilina Kandamby was dismissed with Sri Lanka at a hopeless 104 for 6. Those Sri Lankan fans who stayed behind did have something to cheer when Kulasekara and Chamara Kapugedera blasted a stream of boundaries in the batting Powerplay. It didn't threaten to change the match but at least it kept most spectators at the ground almost till the end of the match.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo