India v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Adelaide February 14, 2012

Calm Dhoni delivers nerve-shredding tie


Sri Lanka 236 for 9 (Chandimal 81, Jayawardene 43, Vinay 3-46, Ashwin 2-30) tied with India 236 for 9 (Gambhir 91, Dhoni 58*, Thisara 2-45)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The best death-overs bowler in the game went up against the best finisher in the business with four to defend off the last ball. It was only fair that neither Lasith Malinga nor MS Dhoni ended up on the losing side of that contest. Malinga's wide full-length ball would have hoodwinked most batsmen who would have been setting themselves up for the swing to the leg side. Not the fleet-footed Dhoni, though, who calmly stretched across and carved high over the covers even as he teetered on one foot. The ball didn't have the strength to beat Sachithra Senanayake on the boundary, but Dhoni and last-man Umesh Yadav bounded through for three runs to tie a nerve-wracking classic at the Adelaide Oval.

The beauty of the ODI format shone throughout the duration of the chase, with the best minds in the game feeling the pressure of a close finish. India were coasting on the back of another polished effort from Gautam Gambhir, whose faultless 91 showed he has moved on well from his Test-match woes. Dhoni had added 60 runs with Gambhir off 12.5 overs, leaving India needing 59 off 58. At that stage, Dhoni made the first decisive error, when he sold Gambhir dear after calling him for a single. Gambhir was caught short by a direct hit from Nuwan Kulasekara, and his fall gave Sri Lanka an opening; Dhoni would later say it cost India victory.

The wicket was followed by a 28-ball phase that yielded only 13 runs for the loss of Ravindra Jadeja's wicket. Sri Lanka's seamers bowled out of their skins, backed by enterprising field placements from Mahela Jayawardene that cut off the singles. With two overs of Malinga left, Dhoni went after Thisara Perera in the 46th, dumping him for a huge six down the ground, before R Ashwin skimmed another four over the covers. Malinga returned after a quiet over from Kulasekara, with India needing 28 off 18. Mistakes began to sprout from every corner now.

Malinga got Ashwin to sky a slower ball, and Kumar Sangakkara called for, and clanged the chance as he ran towards point. Ashwin continued blundering against the slower ball, heaving and missing one, before chipping straight to cover. With 24 needed off 12, Jayawardene turned to Angelo Mathews who trotted in from round the stumps to cut Dhoni's swinging angle. Mathews lost the plot against Irfan Pathan, though, delivering a high no-ball that Irfan deposited over square leg for six. Irfan was run out next ball, sacrificing his wicket after failing to get a slower ball away. India needed a boundary, and Mathews obliged with another full toss that Dhoni swiped through midwicket to reach 50. Nine was needed off the last over, from Malinga.

In the previous game, Dhoni chose to take the game to the very end. This time, he was forced to do so by Malinga's unhittable lengths. While he bowled impeccably, Malinga's fielding was ordinary, and he missed a couple of returns that would have yielded run outs in the last over. A couple off the first ball was followed by three singles before Vinay sacrificed his wicket to give Dhoni strike for the final ball. One could argue that Malinga should have gone full and straight, but the counter-argument would be that even a fractional error in length would have allowed Dhoni a free swing over the short square boundary. As it transpired, Malinga went wide, Dhoni went high and there was poetic justice in the denouement.

Sri Lanka were left ruing a collapse in their batting Powerplay, that left them at least 20 runs short. They stumbled from a heady 168 for 3 in 35 overs, losing 18 for 3 in the Powerplay, including the two set batsmen - Dinesh Chandimal and Jayawardene - who had added 94 runs without a fuss. The complexion of the game changed so drastically in that block, that Ashwin bowled with two slips in the 40th over.

Until then, Chandimal ran the show with admirable poise, imposing himself with a series of pulls and whips through the leg side, imparted with a flourish that was once the trademark of Marvan Atapattu. In his company, Jayawardene shrugged away the poor form that had dogged him since the South Africa tour, as Sri Lanka recovered from their sluggish start.

India made three crucial early strikes, which meant they were only one wicket away from the lower order even during the Chandimal-Jayawardene association. Vinay Kumar preyed on Upul Tharanga's unending troubles outside the off stump, before Irfan celebrated his return to the venue where he made his international debut in 2003 with pleasing swing, and the wicket of Tillakaratne Dilshan. Ashwin then worked over Sangakkara with spin and variety to peg Sri Lanka back. Chandimal and Jayawardene fought hard to revive the innings, but India were the happier side after 50 overs.

Gambhir took charge of the chase with assurance, and it will be interesting if India will continue their rotation policy and bench him for the next game. Sachin Tendulkar's rustiness, too, suggested the break from Sunday's game didn't do him much good. Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma all perished after scoring 15 runs apiece, as Sri Lanka made timely dents. Suresh Raina's failure meant India were wobbling at 122 for 4 in the 28th over. But they had just the right man coming in at that stage.

It wasn't just the players that erred on the tense night. Umpire Nigel Llong's miscounting meant Malinga only bowled five balls in the 30th over. India will believe they would have got the winning run off the ball that was missed. Sri Lanka will believe they could have got the tenth Indian wicket off it. How perfect then, that we will never know how it could have ended.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sivaramakrushna on February 16, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    @sarath1948: Do you feel that Asoka de Silva is deserved place in the Elite Panel? Had you seen umpiring decisions of Asoka de Silva, you would not have said this. I saw him giving blunders. In one series, for one batsman, the same umpire gives LBW for inside edges in consecutive matches in favour to his home country, it must not be supported irrespective of whatever (whether opponent or supporting) side you are.

  • Kalana on February 16, 2012, 12:13 GMT

    @deepu111- ha ha gambirs innigs, Plumb LBW when he was on 40 and showed the bat to the umpire as if he hit the ball and hot spot showed he didnt nd replay showed theres day light btw bad and ball. No wonder indians dont like DRS otherwise they are loosing all the matches. Then he was again LBW on 87 and umpire didnt give him out. My concern is the LBW when he was on 40, god why show u r bat to the umpire if u didnt hit the ball. Thant innings SL got gambirs wicket 3 times, so its not a respectable innigs. Remember india didnt win on the slow or flat track, they won against australia which was a flat track.

  • Manesh on February 16, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    To all SL fans who is remembering us the defeats in Tests should not be aware that this is ODI and your team lost 4 games to Pakistan in a condition which is similar to your home! First look at your own performance and then comment on others!

  • Deepak on February 16, 2012, 9:34 GMT

    @wjkalana- Dude, there is a lot of difference between a flat track and a slow track.. A flat track is more like sub-continent where ball comes nicely on to the bat whereas on a slow track the ball holds on to the pitch and is difficult to bat on. SL batted on a flat track (1st innings of the match), then the pitch deteriorated (in the II innings) when Indians were batting. The wicket got slower and slower and the knock from Gambhir certainly deserves more respect than what you are giving it.. Notably against Aus also he played a similar innings when the pitch kept getting slower right through the 2nd innings.

  • Deepak on February 16, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    @wjkalana - LOL.. Sri Lanka gets in to the finals of WC whenever its held in slower tracks like Ind, SL and WI.. Please no arguing about this simple fact that's accepted by the whole world.. Atleast you said India had a good team in 2003.. Wow really hats off to you for finally praising the Indian team a little.. And about tomorrow's game, SL will lose more convincingly than ever.. Hahaha

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    This drama of a tied ODI match is over hyped. Dhoni was at the centre of finishing the tie and also denying India the win. Sri Lanka also floundered when it mattered; so they too had a very good chance to win the match. But what the people missed here is the fact that the 41st over of the match was played out as a maiden by Dhoni. A couple of runs in this over (to say the minimum) could have altered the final decision in India's favour. The media conveniently chooses to ignore this fact.

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    and abt winning matches......i believe cricket is a team game...if sachin is not winning all matches, wat abt the other 10 players?........wat are they doing?...........plenty of times i heard commentators saying "this looks like australia vs Sachin at the moment", again wat were the other guys doing? and 61 MoM awards(most by any player) is not for the worst player, its for best player........

  • Sarath on February 16, 2012, 2:43 GMT

    It is time to remove all this reckless batters (who came into prominence with Arjuna) from the Front-Line. Though a team could accommodate one such batter only, at the top, having 4 risky stroke makers out of top 5 like the SLan team is suicidal. Since the day A'pattu left from the top order we have had lost almost all tournaments (both home & away) if we had won any it was due to our bowlers. We need few more classy batsmen the likes of Gambir & Chandimal at the top who have total control over their stroke play. We have enough of such young promising players though the present selectors have disliking for players of correct technique (e.g. A'pattu & S'weera) . The future is not so bright for SL, with these same old selectors & administrators, who were there from time to time for the last 20 years.

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2012, 2:36 GMT

    U r commenting only about the ONE ball short that had been bowled. What of the LBW decision against Gambhir off the bowling of Herath that was NOT given by Umpire Simon Fry.Wasn't it plumb? and Gambir carried the innings in partnership with Dhoni. Wouldn't This appeal if ruled out have changed the complexion of the game.Shame. This was definetely NOT a human error & moreover the Umpire had a better see in his NIGHT Vision.Wonder whether this glaring offer to the INDIANS was made in the absence of the DRS For SUMMA.

  • Sarath on February 16, 2012, 2:01 GMT

    The umpire didn't give Gambir out for the reason that, if he had ruled him out and the decision wasn't correct the umpire's position in the Elite Panel wouldn't have been safe as in the cases of Daryl Harper & Asoka de Silva. Therefore it is always better for them to be on the safe side by always ruling the Benefit of Doubt of the decision in favor of the Team which has the most powerful Cricket Authority, as in the case of Chandimal who was ruled out(2nd match of this series) to a ball going away from & above the leg stump. This is the very reason why countries like Australia has dominated the Cricket World since the introduction of Neutral Umpires.They always think twice before giving a decision against a powerful Country. The UDRS with better technology would eliminate these mistakes made by some ordinary umpires.

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