Sri Lanka win Indian Oil Cup in style
Sri Lanka reasserted their superiority at home, scoring 281, the highest total of tournament, and then strangled wickets at regular intervals to keep India down to 263 for 9, and won the Indian Oil Cup, taking the final by 18 runs. Sanath Jayasuriya, that old warrior at whose hands India have suffered so often, and Mahela Jayawardene, helped along by Russel Arnold, put Sri Lanka well on course to victory after Marvan Atapattu won an important toss and batted first.
The early loss of Atapattu, the first of Ashish Nehra's six victims on the day, and the subsequent failure of Dilhara Lokuhettige, sent in as a pinch-hitter, did nothing to dampen Jayasuriya's spirits. Jayasuriya brought up 10,000 ODI runs in style, pulling Irfan Pathan to the square-leg fence. With that milestone out of the way early, Jayasuriya set his sight on a big innings. And you don't usually drop Jayasuriya twice in a final and get away with it.
The first let-off came when Jayasuriya had made 19, and flashed hard at Pathan and only managed an outside edge. Mahendra Singh Dhoni moved late and barely got glove on ball, parrying it flush onto Sehwag's face at first slip. India desperately needed Jayasuriya's wicket at that stage, having already snared a couple at the other end. Kumar Sangakkara came and went, one silken cover-drive his meaningful contribution before he hit on the up to cover-point (67 for 3).
All along Jayasuriya kept the scoreboard ticking over, not merely with clever singles, but with meaty blows to the boundary on both sides of the wicket. Kumble suffered badly in one over, being swept twice and cut once to the boundary.
Just when Sri Lanka were motoring along a run-out which put the skids on the innings. Jayasuriya flicked Kumble to fine leg and scampered back for a second, but a strong throw from Harbhajan Singh, right over the stumps, found Jayasuriya short (122 for 4). Jayasuriya's 67 included nine fours and had given Dravid plenty to worry about.
But there was something more deadly to come. Arnold and Jayawardene strung together a partnership that would all but seal the fate of the game. The manner in which Jayawardene gently manhandled India's spinners - with soft hands, sublime timing and delicate placement - made it impossible to stem the flow of runs. His shot-selection was immaculate and a late-cut from off stump off Sehwag - the shot was placed with the precision of a surgeon making an incision - was ample proof of the authority with which he mastered India's bowlers.
When Jayawardene (83) finally fell, playing a tired shot on an enervating day, scooping Nehra to short fine leg, he had done his job (247 for 5). Arnold was no slouch himself, and though he only struck four fours in his innings of 64, he maintained an impressive strike-rate of more than 100, and was the perfect foil to Jayawardene.
On these pitches, against skilful slow bowlers who know more about choking than the average serial killer, successful pursuit of 282 needed something special. And Virender Sehwag threatened to provide that, bludgeoning 48 off 22 balls. He hit the ball cleanly from the word go and found the gaps unerringly, peppering the advertising hoardings from long-off to point with a series of booming drives. Lokuhettige suffered a nightmarish over- 4,4,6,4,4,4- being carted for 26 runs.
Sourav Ganguly played a couple of pleasing cover-drives, but fell as soon as spin was introduced. Dilshan got a delivery to pitch on the stumps from round the wicket and straighten just enough to win the lbw decision (102 for 2).
Dravid was once again called upon to rescue India with a long innings, and he managed to compile an 84-run partnership with Yuvraj Singh, who looked far from his best. But once again the spinners struck just when a partnership was building. Yuvraj's mistimed sweep went straight to hand on the on side (186 for 3). If hopes receded then, they were dashed with the score on 205 when a mix-up with Mohammad Kaif cost Dravid (72) his wicket. With no recognised batsman to partner him, there was little Kaif could do, and India limped to 263 for 9, and a disappointing third straight loss against Sri Lanka.
Marvan Atapattu b Nehra 11 (32 for 1)
Played down the wrong line
Dilhara Lokuhettige lbw b Nehra 9 (46 for 2)
Adjudged lbw to one that pitched outside leg
Kumar Sangakkara c Sehwag b Nehra 8 (67 for 3)
Drove on the up to short point
Sanath Jayasuriya run out (Harbhajan/Dhoni) 68 (123 for 4)
Found short attempting a second to fine leg
Mahela Jayawardene c Kaif b Nehra 83 (247 for 5)
Swept a slower ball to short fine leg
Russel Arnold run out (Dravid) 64 (257 for 6)
Run out sneaking a quick single
Tillakaratne Dilshan b Nehra 7 (262 for 7)
Bowled by a perfect yorker
Upul Chandana c Harbhajan b Nehra 2 (268 for 8)
Holed out to the sweeper on the off side
Muttiah Muralitharan run out (Sehwag/Nehra) 0 (281 for 9)
Sacrificed his wicket attempting a second off the last ball of the innings
Virender Sehwag b Vaas 48 (62 for 2)
Chopped a short one back on
Sourav Ganguly lbw b Dilshan 26 (102 for 2)
Missed a straight one
Yuvraj Singh c Lokuhettige b Chandana 46 (186 for 3)
Holed out to the sweeper on the leg side with a sweep
Rahul Dravid run out (Dilshan/Sangakkara) 72 (205 for 4)
Mix-up with Mohammad Kaif left him stranded
Mahendra Singh Dhoni lbw b Chandana 7 (216 for 5)
Trapped plumb in front by a straight ball
Irfan Pathan b Muralitharan 1 (219 for 6)
Foxed by the straight ball
Harbhajan Singh run out (Maharoof/Sangakkara) 0 (223 for 7)
Took off for a suicidal single without looking for his partner's call.
Zaheer Khan c Tharanga b Muralitharan 5 (229 for 8)
Slogged to midwicket
Mohammad Kaif c Atapattu b Vaas 31 (246 for 9)
Top-edged to midwicket.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo