Kaif, Yuvraj Singh see India home

Stephen Lamb

June 30, 2002

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India completed their second victory in two days to go top of the table in the NatWest triangular series, beating Sri Lanka by five wickets with four overs to spare at the AMP Oval. Amid flag-waving, whistling and horn-blowing, a 60-run partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif took India from the doubtful position of 135 for five to a position where victory was certain.

Set what by the standards of the series so far was a moderate target at four runs an over, India got under way fortuitously with an inside edge for four by Sourav Ganguly off Chaminda Vaas in the first over. Virender Sehwag began much as he left off at Lord's, with pulls to mid-wicket off both Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa. But it was Vaas who made the much-needed breakthrough, winning an lbw call against Ganguly from a ball that cut back at him from outside the off stump. When Sehwag was caught at cover, driving at Vaas, India were 26 for two, and Sri Lanka sensed that they just might be back in business. Enter Sachin Tendulkar, who opened his account with a cover drive of typically immaculate timing. After being beaten by Zoysa with some late movement, he glanced another boundary when offered room on his pads.

As Zoysa dropped short, Mongia hooked him imperiously for six to hoist India's 50. On the "anything you can do, I can do better" basis, Tendulkar then hooked Dilhara Fernando, Zoysa's pace bowling partner at the other end, out of the ground. The other Fernando, Buddika, replaced Zoysa but the runs continue to flow with Mongia cracking another four through mid-wicket, putting India back on course. A misfield by Arnold at extra cover gifted Mongia two more as events took on a certain air of inevitability.

After just two overs from Buddika, Upul Chandana's leg-spin was introduced at the Vauxhall end but that too was punished, Mongia driving straight for four. But the left-hander perished in the next over, hooking once too often at Dilhara Fernando to see Vaas running round from long leg, judging a steepler to perfection. There was a delay when a square cut from Tendulkar hit a pigeon on the outfield. The unfortunate bird was removed from the arena, but happily it later recovered.

Chandana took his first wicket when Dravid leaving his crease to drive, got an inside edge on to his off stump via his boot. Zoysa, returning at the Pavilion End, was immediately square cut to the fence by Tendulkar. However, eight balls later, a little extra lift from Zoysa was enough to snare India's maestro, the ball brushing his glove on the way through to Kaluwitharana.

With India teetering on the edge of trouble, Kaif pulled Zoysa nervelessly for four, and Yuvraj Singh played much as he did at Lord's yesterday, mixing watchful defence with the ferocious dispatch of the bad ball. By the time he was out, when the substitute Silva caught a skier at mid-wicket off Dilhara, India had effectively won the game. It was left to Kaif to finish it, with a pushed single to square leg.

Earlier, a three-wicket burst from Man-of-the-Match Ajit Agarkar took the wind out of Sri Lanka's sails after Jayasuriya, on his 33rd birthday, had raised expectations of a batting carnival. Zaheer Khan was hit for 13 in his first over, six of them cut over third man by Jayasuriya - a remarkable stroke. But Kaluwitharana, missed behind the stumps by Dravid off Nehra, edged Agarkar's first ball for Dravid to make no mistake.

Jayasuriya, on 36, edged an attempted cut to be well caught by Dravid, two-handed at full stretch to his left. Without addition to the total Khan, switched from the Vauxhall to the Pavilion End, found a way through Atapattu's defences via inside edge and pad to hit his off stump. Arnold, sporting the revolutionary new Woodworm bat, looked confident as he hooked Agarkar for four, but was then caught behind sparring at the same bowler.

In the circumstances, Jayawardene and Nawaz were forced to play themselves in cautiously, with the inevitable result of a drop in the scoring rate. Nawaz, after a streaky boundary to third man off Ganguly, was caught at slip next ball attempting to steer the ball in the same direction. With boundaries scarce, Jayawardene exchanged ones and twos with Chandana until the former, given width outside the off stump by Ganguly, drove him sweetly to the rope at cover. Nehra's return gave India the additional breakthrough they wanted, as Chandana tried to pull a short ball from outside his off stump, got a leading edge and Kaif took a fine catch, scooping the ball up as he dived forward at extra cover.

Agarkar's return was expensive, as Jayawardene showed his class with a straight-driven boundary, and reached his fifty in less orthodox manner, edging four more to third man. His patient but invaluable knock ended rather tamely, when he pushed indecisively at Khan to present an easy return catch. Zoysa played an injudicious swish to be caught at square leg, and Sri Lanka's eventual total of 202 for eight never really looked adequate.

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