India A v Sri Lanka A, Nairobi August 15, 2007

Sri Lankans triumph after initial jitters

Cricinfo staff

Sri Lanka A 106 for 6 (Lokuarachchi 37*) beat India A 102 (IK Pathan 44, Kulasekara 4-10)

Pankaj Singh took 2 for 37 but was unable to prevent Sri Lanka A's victory © AFP
Kaushal Lokuarachchi and Gayan Wijekoon stitched together a gritty 66-run partnership to lift Sri Lanka A to a thrilling win in a low-scoring game against India A at Nairobi. India were restricted to 102 runs before Sri Lanka, at one stage stuttering at 40 for 6, were guided home by the pair. Irfan Pathan had earlier top-scored with 44 to lift India from an equally calamitous 30 for 7. He later combined with Pankaj Singh to slow the chase, but 102 was never enough to defend.

The chase started sedately, before Sri Lanka were rocked by a triple strike. Pathan trapped Dilruwan Perera leg-before in the seventh over with one that kept low; Pankaj Singh prised out Malinda Warnapura before Irfan struck again in the ninth over. A promising 19 for 0 turned to 24 for 3 and India had stormed their way back into the game.

Sri Lanka were to slip deeper into crisis when Praveen Kumar was introduced in the attack. India struck thrice again, in nine balls: Kumar took out Thilina Kandamby with a lifting delivery while Pankaj removed Silva for a second-ball duck before Udawatte was run out to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 40 for 6. Enter Wijekoon and Lokuarachchi.

They crept to 52 after 21 overs before Lokuarachchi swung three boundaries in eight deliveries to push them ahead. Kumar was lofted over cover while Pragyan Ojha was lofted over his head and slog-swept to the midwicket boundary as Sri Lanka forged ahead.

Mohammad Kaif changed his bowlers around but the duo stuck adhesively to the crease. Runs slowed down to a trickle again, but with a paltry target it mattered little. Lokuarachchi carved Pankaj for two fours in the 29th over to put the issue beyond any doubt and Wijekoon lofted Pankaj straight down the ground to bring up the victory two overs later.

Earlier, in chilly conditions, India had struggled from the onset. Nuwan Kulasekara, a former International seamer, did the damage. He prised out Kumar, India's star performer against Kenya yesterday, for a second-ball duck before inducing fatal edges from Yusuf Pathan and Kaif. After four overs, Kulasekara had figures of 3 for 2 as India slipped up.

Chanaka Welegedara, the left-arm seamer, thrust the knife in further by dismissing the in-form Parthiv Patel and Niraj Patel before trapping Subramaniam Badrinath in front. At 30 for 7, India were tottering, staring straight into defeat when Pathan entered the fray.

His 79-ball 44 included two fours and a massive six over midwicket. Giving him stubborn support was Yo Mahesh. Mahesh slammed the first ball to the midwicket boundary but eventually knuckled down to hold one end up. That he ended up on eight from 45 balls says much about his intent and the nature of his innings. Together the duo put on 51 runs before Pathan fell, trying to go for quick runs. Ultimately, it didn't matter.