Perera five-for takes Sri Lanka to final
Sri Lanka 104 for 2 (Dilshan 35, Jayawardene 33) beat India 103 (Yuvraj 38, Perera 5-28) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sri Lanka came into the game needing to win to stay alive in the tournament. Their captain had made some prickly comments - "We don't try and hide behind the press or hide behind our board" - on the eve of the game. One of their players was coming back from a ban and another had lost his match fee the previous time these two teams faced. One expected this game to be spicy. One anticipated some heat in the middle. One thought there would be a great fight. However, India succumbed so meekly that Sri Lanka waltzed through to the tri-series final without breaking into a sweat. India, after slipping to their worst defeat in terms of balls remaining, face New Zealand on Wednesday in a knockout.
The Sri Lankan seamers, led by Thisara Perera, owned the first half of the game as India were shot out for 103. What stood out was Sri Lanka's discipline in executing their plan to perfection. What surprised you was how easily India fell into the individual traps. And the chase was over in a blink.
Sri Lanka had a plan for each batsman, simple in its thought and perfect in its execution. Far too often these days, Dinesh Karthik's plan to tackle the moving ball, while opening, has been too one-dimensional: He walks down the track in an effort to make the bowler change the length. Nearly always, Kumar Sangakkara counters it by standing up to the stumps. If Karthik has a plan B, it doesn't really come through with any sort of clarity. Today, again, Karthik began to stutter once Sangakkara stood up. Nuwan Kulasekara is known for his incutters but he kept pushing them away from Karthik's outside edge. Sure enough, he fell to a delivery that straightened outside off, though the replays didn't confirm the edge.
For some time now, Rohit Sharma's head-position and iffy foot work has dragged him into trouble. Time and again, he presses that front leg far too across and tries to get the bat around the front pad. Often, he doesn't manage to do it in time. Today, too, he fell, trapped right in front by Angelo Mathews. The discipline in the plan came through again: For five deliveries (four in the over before the dismissal), Mathews took it away from Rohit before he brought one back in to get his man. India's other young middle-order hope Suresh Raina was repeatedly tested with deliveries in the off-stump corridor. Raina, who's recently been in good form, struggled to get on the front foot and paid the price. He edged one from Mathews, which led to a fierce appeal from all the close-in fielders, but wasn't given out. He poked at a similar delivery from Perera and didn't seem to get an inside edge but was given out this time.
India slid further as MS Dhoni fell after a scratchy innings. In the recent past, he has developed a habit of walking forward and across and poking with uncertainty at seaming deliveries. Often, it has landed him in trouble. Today, he twice edged Perera just past the lone slip fielder placed slightly wide. On both occasions, Sangakkara was standing up to the stumps. As soon as Sangakkara went back, Dhoni walked forward and across, reached for another Perera delivery, got the outside edge and was caught.
Only Yuvraj Singh looked in any sort of control. He unfurled a couple of gorgeous drives - one was caressed through extra cover and the other sped away between the bowler and mid-off. He hit a stunning six over wide long-off but fell, given out lbw when a Lasith Malinga delivery not only hit him outside the off stump but was also missing it. And the lower order didn't last long - Ravindra Jadeja squeezed out to gully, Praveen Kumar fell to an over-ambitious hit, Ashish Nehra was bounced out, and Perera completed his maiden five-for when he bowled Ishant Sharma.
India's troubles had started early once their best batsman Virender Sehwag fell, trapped lbw by a trademark incutter from Kulasekara; the replays showed it would have clipped the leg stump. And Sri Lanka closed in.
When the TV cameras cast their digital eye on the stands at the start of the morning, it caught a banner: 'Randiv we are with you '. As it turned out, he didn't have to bowl in the end. Another one went up at the half-way mark: "Tandoori chicken for Lion's dinner- Rs 104". Back in India, at least one news channel screamed - "Umpires cheat India". It was a day when emotions ran high.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo