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India v Sri Lanka, Super Four, Asia Cup, Karachi
Chappell: 'India's batting is their backbone'
July 3, 2008
Everything clicked for India in this all-important game and the two best teams are now in the final
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Ian Chappell: 'Mahendra Singh Dhoni has handled the multiple roles of being a captain, batsman and keeper brilliantly' © AFP

Ian Chappell: There is a lot to like about Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy. Early on in this tournament, he voiced his displeasure about the back-to-back games and the scheduling but that was it. He then got on with the job of trying to get his side into the final. He had a few obstacles to overcome. He lost the toss and that seemed an advantage to Sri Lanka. But India's batting has got them to this stage of the tournament - they have been the backbone of the team.

Fortunately for India, their bowling improved. Praveen Kumar, who has been demoted from the new ball, showed a bit of improvement. I thought Ishant Sharma bowled a pretty good spell early on and he picked up a couple of wickets - that of [Kumar] Sangakkara and later of [Sanath] Jayasuriya, but not before Jayasuriya had got Sri Lanka away to a fairly good start. [Mahela] Jayawardene, who has been in good form but hasn't been able to get big enough scores, made a good half-century. But the good news for Sri Lanka was that their young players continued to show consistent form. [Chamara] Kapugedera played very well and he looks like a really good player now that he has some confidence at this level and Chamara Silva also got a half-century. At that point it looked as though Sri Lanka would go on and post well over 300. But Praveen bowled with a bit more confidence and got rid of the dangerous Kapugedera. Then, steady wickets without being brilliant bowling, restricted the Sri Lankans to 308.

That is always a difficult total - chasing over 300 - particularly when you know that if you don't get there, you are out of the tournament.

India have been very solid at the top of the order. Once again it was [Gautam] Gambhir and [Virender] Sehwag who got them off to a flying start. Sehwag is looking very calm and is hitting the ball beautifully at the moment. He hit one six and six fours. India got off to a flying start averaging about eight an over with some good batting occasionally with a bit of audacious stroke-play. Gambhir is also in good form. This pair likes batting together and it really shows.

When India lost Sehwag to a rather ambitious shot, it brought [Suresh] Raina to the crease. Raina looked a bit edgy early on although he has been in good form in the tournament. Then Gambhir was out to [Muttiah] Muralitharan, who was far and away Sri Lanka's best bowler. But it was the skipper, Dhoni, promoted himself up the order to No. 4, who settled Raina down. They had a good, solid partnership which fell just one short of the century mark. By that stage, India were cruising along to victory.

Dhoni was very level-headed - he was powerful when he needed to be. He really is a good leader as well as a good captain. He does everything right for India and despite his fatigue with the dual duties or the three-fold duties - of being a batsman; a wicketkeeper and the captain - his competitive instincts kept pushing him on. He was finally out bowled by a quicker one from Murali, but by that stage he had made sure that his side was home and into the finals.

Yuvraj Singh put the icing on the cake. He was in very good form and he hit some powerful shots, including one flat six. Rohit Sharma joined him and made sure that India got home safely and into the final.

So India getting home with six wickets in hand with about three overs to spare. The good news about the final is that it has the best two sides - India and Sri Lanka.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a a columnist

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