All-round Yuvraj Singh helps India draw level
Yuvraj Singh gave himself a 28th birthday present with three wickets and a witheringly powerful half-century as India became only the second team to successfully chase more than 200 in a Twenty20 international. Kumar Sangakkara's dazzling 31-ball 59 had been the foundation of Sri Lanka's imposing 206 for 7, but with Virender Sehwag clearing the ropes with ease during his 64 off 36 balls and MS Dhoni contributed a rapid 46, India eased home with five balls to spare. In the process, they recorded the highest chase, surpassing South Africa's 208 against West Indies in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20.
When Yuvraj is on song, modest medium pace really isn't the answer, and Sri Lanka discovered that the hard way. For much of the chase, the game was in the balance, but two overs turned an arduous trek into a stroll. First, Kaushalya Weeraratne was pummelled for sixes over long-off and long-on in an over that cost 21, and then Nuwan Kulasekara was thumped a long way over cover and long-on in a 23-run over. To add to Kulasekara's woes, Tillakaratne Dilshan let one slip through his fingers for four, with Yuvraj then on 40.
India had fielded appallingly once again, dropping five catches, but Sri Lanka were little better, missing direct hits by the bushel and catching poorly as well. The outcome might have been very different had Sanath Jayasuriya managed to take Sehwag on the run at mid-on when he had just 14, and if Chamara Kapugedera hadn't spilled a chance at deep midwicket when Dhoni had just one.
Sehwag certainly exacted a heavy toll. The hapless Weeraratne was twice walloped over cover for sixes, and Angelo Mathews met with the same fate. His entrance into the bowling attack had hardly been auspicious, with Dhoni whipping one down to the sightscreen.
After Gautam Gambhir was run out going for a third run off a misfield, India appeared to have the chase under control but a superb 11th over from Lasith Malinga got Sri Lanka right back into contention. He conceded only four and had Sehwag caught straight down the ground. But then came Yuvraj and his six blitz, and it was perhaps fitting that he clinched it with another nonchalant heave over long-on.
Earlier, Sangakkara had followed up his 37-ball 78 at Nagpur with a blistering innings. Jayasuriya weighed in with 31 from just 21 balls, and there was a punishing 38 from Chintaka Jayasinghe. India were generous hosts, with Sangakkara reprieved by Ravindra Jadeja on the midwicket boundary, and Jayasinghe benefitting twice as Ashish Nehra and Gambhir failed to hold on to mistimed slogs.
Sangakkara had started with a fluid cover-drive after Ishant Sharma had sent Dilshan's leg stump cartwheeling. He then slammed Sudeep Tyagi, the debutant, over point for six before a fortuitous inside edge for four. He continued to drive beautifully through cover as the 50 of the innings took just 4.3 overs.
Jayasuriya struck one incredible six over cover off Nehra and by the end of the Powerplay, Sri Lanka had 73 for 1. Dhoni opted for spin as early as the sixth over, but both Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina struggled, with wides aplenty down the leg side. Pathan finally trapped Jayasuriya in front to end an 81-run partnership that took just 6.3 overs, but by the halfway stage, there were 107 on the board.
Sangakkara got to his half-century with a smashing shot over midwicket for six, but Yuvraj finally got his Kings XI Punjab team-mate as the encore found Nehra at wide long-on. Mahela Jayawardene, another IPL "local", came in and cut Jadeja for four, before a big heave off Ishant went for six, but when he tried to repeat the stroke, Tyagi held on to the chance.
Kapugedara holed out in similar fashion off Yuvraj, and Jayasinghe, who had clouted a six over long-on off Jadeja, finally ran out of luck when he swung one to deep square leg. With Weeraratne run out after a poor call from Mathews, Sri Lanka's innings threatened to run out of fizz in the final stages.
But Mathews flicked Ishant for six and Karthik dropped yet another chance on the rope at square-leg as the damage done in the early overs was reinforced. Mathews finished off with another meaty six as India squared up to the depressing reality of a fifth successive Twenty20 loss. Fortunately for them, their big-hitting boys came out to play. And how.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo