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The Report by Andrew Fernando in Colombo
September 15, 2012
India 146 for 5 (Dhoni 55*) beat Sri Lanka 120 (Irfan 5-25) by 26 runs
A 78-run recovery stand and a belligerent finish from MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma paved the way for India's 26-run win over Sri Lanka in a warm up match on a P Sara surface with plenty of bounce.
Sri Lanka's seamers reduced India to 51 for 4 after 8.3 overs, with Gautam Gambhir having retired hurt, but Dhoni and Rohit first steadied the innings, before reaping 62 runs from the last four wayward overs to reach 146 for 5. Sri Lanka never had their chase on track, losing wickets throughout their innings as the required rate ballooned. However, they were effectively without their best Twenty20 batsman, Mahela Jayawardene, who only came in to bat in the 19th over, having had time in the middle against West Indies in Sri Lanka's first warm up match.
At the end of the 16th over in the first innings, India were only on 84 and Dhoni had scored 14 from 28 balls. However, with three boundaries behind square off Nuwan Kulasekara in the 17th, Dhoni launched the salvo India had carefully built towards. Lasith Malinga's abysmal run against India continued in the 18th and 20th overs - both of which cost 17 - as Rohit and Dhoni employed aerial square-drives to flay Malinga's wide yorkers over backward point. Rohit was dismissed attempting that stroke in the last over, but with the helicopter shot whirring nicely, Dhoni launched a six to finish the innings and propelled India to a formidable total on a difficult track.
The recovery had come after Gautam Gambhir had been struck on the wrist by Malinga in the first over, and though he retired hurt as a precautionary measure, Gambhir did not sustain anything worse than a bruise. Kulasekara removed Suresh Raina and Virender Sehwag, but was expensive again, having also bled runs in Sri Lanka's first practice match.
India's collapse called for caution early in Dhoni and Rohit's association, and the pair were content to accumulate, as a disciplined Sri Lanka attack allowed few chances for risk-free hitting. With Ajantha Mendis and Akila Dananjaya rested - perhaps to give India as little exposure to the pair as possible, should the teams meet in the knockout stages - Rangana Herath fired in three overs for eight runs, having earlier picked up the scalp of Yuvraj Singh with a doosra.
Sri Lanka's seamers continued to exploit the bounce in the surface, but unlike the top-order batsmen, Dhoni and Rohit were not tempted to attack the short ball until the late charge came.
In reply, Dilshan Munaweera missed a straight one from Irfan Pathan to begin Sri Lanka's own top-order decline, before Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews also departed before the Powerplay overs were through. Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne played at firefighting, attempting the same recovery-then-explosion that Dhoni and Rohit had provided, but neither could make their expansive strokes stick when the time for acceleration came.
Jeevan Mendis offered Sri Lanka some hope with a busy 26, but tight bowling from India's seamers ensured Sri Lanka had too much to do in the final few overs. Five Sri Lanka wickets fell in a heap in the last two overs, as they attempted their belated surge.
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri LankaFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala