Charged-up Sri Lanka take title
These two have binged on each other since July 2008, but what promises to be the one for the road went Sri Lanka's way, ending their run of losses in big home matches. On the tournament's best batting track, though not quite a flat belter, Tillakaratne Dilshan's risk-free yet urgent century and Kumar Sangakkara's delightful half-century set a target never reached under Dambulla lights. When Virender Sehwag left his team-mates - who'd scored 288 runs between them before the start of the final - with 262 to get, it was all but over. The flame flickered for longer than expected, but not nearly long enough.
Umpiring decisions and manic appealing dominated the chase but couldn't alter the expected result. Dinesh Karthik was given out caught off the thigh pad. Virender Sehwag's plumb lbw was not given, but he ran himself out off the same ball. Yuvraj Singh got away with a caught-behind before opening his account but was given out, 26 runs later, off one he didn't seem to have edged. MS Dhoni survived a close lbw call when on 12 but ran out of partners as the asking rate mounted.
The start of the match was much more serene. In fact, off the fourth ball of the game, Praveen Kumar hardly appealed when he had Mahela Jayawardene caught right in front. Jayawardene, promoted because of his technical prowess, put together the best opening stand of the tournament - 121, an association that also set up the highest team total. The way Dilshan and Jayawardene batted, without taking any undue risks, it was easy to see why the previous best of 79 too belonged to them. The ball may not have swung wildly, but the batsmen were tested by the early movement that Praveen and Munaf Patel extracted.
Neither batsman tried expansive shots. In his first three overs, Praveen went too far down the leg side, looking for that magic outswinger, and went for fours through midwicket and fine leg. It wasn't as easy to hit Munaf off his shortish length, around off and with slight seam movement either side. They didn't try to do that; instead they played out Munaf's first four overs for 13, yet the score at the end of those overs read 47 for 0.
Dilshan targeted Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma. Nehra's second ball and Ishant's first were punched away for fours. Both the shots were hit along the ground, and involved more enterprise than risk. By the time Ishant's second over yielded six, four and four, Dilshan had moved to 43 off 30, and Sri Lanka to 74 after 12 overs.
Dilshan had assumed total control by then. The punch shot through the off side, with his front foot out of the way, caused the main damage. One of those, off Nehra, brought up his fifty in the 16th over. Nehra's figures then read 4-0-31-0.
Forget the fifth bowler, Dhoni must have started worrying about how to finish the quotas of specialist bowlers, all quicks. Dilshan's pace didn't make the task any easier. Barring one spell near his century, when he spent 38 balls between his 12th and 13th boundaries, the longest Dilshan went without a four was 16 balls.
During that quiet period Sri Lanka lost Jayawardene and Upul Tharanga against the run of play, but Kumar Sangakkara made sure the team didn't fall behind. In the time that Dilshan went from 92 to 100 and Sangakkara hared from 11 to 32, taking Sri Lanka to 194 in the 37th over. Dilshan then threatened more punishment on India, but holed out to long leg.
Sangakkara made up for it and, even with wickets falling at the other end, drive followed elegant drive. The superb acceleration - from 19 off 29 to 70 off 59 - was interrupted by a slower ball from Munaf in the 45th over, but Sri Lanka had reached 261 for 6. Munaf's last three overs went for 14 runs and two wickets, but a target of 300 meant India would need more than just Sehwag.
Sehwag hit six scorching boundaries in the first six overs. Off the last ball of the sixth over, Nuwan Kulasekara had him plumb in front, but umpire Asoka de Silva seemed the only one to disagree. Sehwag got greedy and sought a leg-bye that didn't exist. Chamara Kapugedera was not only alert, he also hit direct.
Thisara Perera, now Sri Lanka's India specialist, and Suraj Randiv, who got nice drift and dip, kept the wicket flow going in the middle.
Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Dhoni tried to buck the trend of India's hopes disappearing with Sehwag, but Sri Lanka were at them all the time. Kohli's uncharacteristic hoick showed the pressure the required rate exerted, Raina's cameo involved too many risks and ended prematurely from India's point of view, and Dhoni's 67 were too late and too few.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo