India v Sri Lanka, 4th ODI, Visakhapatnam February 17, 2007

Yuvraj and Sehwag allay some fears

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Uthappa played some breathtaking shots but he'll learn that cameos alone don't cut it at this level © AFP

The crowd throwing water sachets in unison at the denouement of this match summed the manner in which Sri Lanka were swept away by a tidal wave of Indian shot-making. Once Robin Uthappa unveiled an eye-catching array of strokes against hopelessly wayward new-ball bowlers, the result of this game was seldom in doubt. Both Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando were clocking in excess of 90 miles an hour, yet the line and length were so awry that they might as well have been throwing pies. By the time Uthappa departed after another rush of blood to the head, the asking rate was down to five an over, a cakewalk on a pitch as good as this.

What followed helped ease some of India's main worries ahead of the flight to the Caribbean. Virender Sehwag's wretched form and Yuvraj Singh's failure to play an innings of substance on returning from injury were both concerns ahead of this game, but both men capitalised on the frenetic start that Uthappa provided. Sehwag's dopey dismissal took the sheen off his 46, but Yuvraj and the new-look Sourav Ganguly creamed the bowling so effortlessly that Sri Lanka weren't even allowed to entertain the slimmest hope of victory.

What Uthappa didn't do was play the sort of innings that would have created a tremendous selection headache. As at Chennai against West Indies, he had the bowlers at his mercy, only for impetuosity to override common sense. The hook for six off Malinga was breathtaking, as were a couple of carves over cover, but he'll learn that cameos alone don't cut it at this level.

Ganguly's innings after initially going off with cramp was just as sensational. On the days when he's on his A game, no one plays the spinners with such withering contempt, and the gorgeous sixes off Malinga Bandara and Sanath Jayasuriya epitomised the confidence of a man who knows that he'll have a vital role to play in the islands that Christopher Columbus discovered half a millennia ago.

The same goes for Yuvraj, without whom India appeared a second-rate outfit in South Africa. When he bats as he did for much of the 2005-06 season, the middle order looks formidable, and he cashed in superbly on a surface where runs were available on a platter. A couple of the drives down the ground were simply stunning, but the stroke of the day was perhaps the glorious cover-drive off Fernando that fetched him a first 50 since Port-of-Spain last summer.



Chamara Silva's maiden ODI century was the only substantial score in the Sri Lankan innings © AFP

The Indian run-fest merely served to illustrate just how poorly Sri Lanka's top order batted. The Indian bowlers were nowhere near as good as they had been at Goa, but with the notable exception of Chamara Silva, the batsmen were in self-destruct mode. Mahela Jayawardene's horrendous hoick summed up the top-order woes in this series, and it was only in the final 10 overs that Sri Lanka exploited the helpful conditions.

Silva, playing only his 14th match more than seven years after debuting as a 19-year-old, showed all the composure and class that was in evidence during the Test at the Basin Reserve a couple of months ago. Then, he had shredded New Zealand to the tune of 61 and 152 in a famous Sri Lankan victory, but with none of his compatriots going beyond 28 in Visakhapatnam, his splendid 107 was doomed to be in a lost cause.

If there was a touch of grey to India's final silver lining before the World Cup, it came in the shape of a slipshod death-overs display. Two catches went down in Sreesanth's final over, and 91 came from the final 10 when almost every attempted yorker became a full toss to be clattered to the fence.

Harbhajan Singh too had a lousy outing, bowling an awful leg-stump line that did nothing but feed the sweep and the heaves through the leg side. But Ganguly was tidy, and with Munaf Patel and Sachin Tendulkar certainties in the XI, it was hard to see where exactly Irfan Pathan would fit in once he recovered from injury. But after the droughts in the Caribbean, Malaysia and South Africa, Indian cricket certainly won't complain about problems of plenty.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo