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September 12, 2009
India's stay at No. 1 in the ICC rankings lasted all of 24 hours. Sri Lanka reasserted their superiority at home, scoring 307, and then strangled wickets at regular intervals to completely rout India in the dress rehearsal for Monday's final. Sanath Jayasuriya and Thilina Kandamby scored brilliant nineties after which the Premadasa reaffirmed its status as one of Sri Lanka's safe houses. Leading a canny display of seam bowling was Angelo Mathews, who picked out six wickets like plastic ducks in a shooting gallery. Blinded by the lights, India were steamrolled and suffered their biggest loss, in terms of runs, on Sri Lankan soil.
After Kumar Sangakkara had won the toss and chosen to bat, there was a welcome return to form for a key player. Jayasuriya, without a fifty-plus score since January, could have gone on 13 when he edged Ishant Sharma wide of slip, but was chanceless thereafter. He used the width on offer to judder boundaries and as Sri Lanka reached 34 in four overs, India had reason to fear the worst.
The loss of Tillakaratne Dilshan didn't cramp Jayasuriya's style and he continued to punish even the smallest indiscretion in line and length. With Jayasuriya pulling and driving RP Singh for three fours in an over, India's best option was to train their efforts at the other end. MS Dhoni gave them the breakthrough by stumping Mahela Jayawardene down the leg side. Sangakkara departed soon after, out lbw to a straight delivery from the impressive Harbhajan Singh, whose first six overs cost 13 as he struck a teasing line.
Jayasuriya had been slowed down due to a loss of strike. Incredibly, he spent 13 deliveries spread over 9. 1 overs in the forties. As the pop anthem of the year, the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling", blared across the thumping stadium Jayasuriya raised his half-century. The crowd cheered loudly. Those cheers turned to thunderous applause when Jayasuriya hammered Yuvraj Singh's short-pitched offerings over midwicket for consecutive fours. Jayasuriya's running between the wickets was superb and belied his age. Seven doubles - three of which came in one over - and three triples were just as punishing for India as the 13 boundaries Jayasuriya picked.
With the crowd rooting for his every run, Jayasuriya played to the gallery: Ashish Nehra was cleverly swatted wide of short fine leg, Yusuf Pathan was swept and paddled with power and precision. There was to be no century, however, as Nehra removed Jayasuriya for 98.
But there was something more deadly to come. Kandamby and Chamara Kapugedera put together an 83-run partnership that would all but seal the fate of the game. As is required when a pair must build on the excellent work of a player before them, they kept the scoring rate healthy. They weren't as belligerent as Jayasuriya but ran well, called loudly, and found the gaps.
Kandamby made sure to cut out any ambitious swings through the off side, opting to run hard for must of his initial runs and only backed himself to play aggressive shots when the run rate needed a boost. Anything that was too full or too loose disappeared and plenty in between was pushed away for ones and twos. The boundary patrollers were kept on attention as he swatted and deflected regularly.
A fabulous display of clean, crisp hitting - not slogging - helped Sri Lanka poach 53 off the batting Powerplay. A flurry of chips and biffs sailed over the square-leg region and extra cover, in between two awesome laps around the corner and one violent heave over midwicket. Aided by a drop at mid-on when he was 73, Kandamby added 18 more to his total and ensured Sri Lanka a winning score.
On tracks like this, against skilful bowlers who know more about choking than the average serial killer, successful pursuit of 308 needed something special. It wasn't to be. India again lost Dinesh Karthik early in the piece, gloving a short ball from Thilan Thushara down the leg side, and when Sachin Tendulkar turned a slower ball from Nuwan Kulasekara to mid-on, the warning sign was flashing.
With Tendulkar back in the hutch India shifted to the lowest gear. Yuvraj Singh survived a clear nick when on 9 but repeated the loose prod and nibbled one behind. Suresh Raina, one of the heroes of yesterday's run chase, nicked his first ball. Rahul Dravid was twice reprieved by Sri Lanka's fielders who missed the stumps, but his luck ran out on 47 when Mathews snuck one past the bat. The rest came and went without much impact against Mathews, who bowled nippy, stump-to-stump seam-up bowling. It literally was a procession: pitch it straight, get a bit of cut and nip, and thanks for coming.
Missing their lead spinner and hardly relying on Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka's latest masters of asphyxiation did it comfortably in the end.
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