Sri Lanka v India, tri-series final, Dambulla August 29, 2010

Sri Lanka's seniors pull their weight

Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara combined to post a target that was beyond India's reach

Sri Lanka's three senior batsmen stepped up their game in front of a clamorous full house in Dambulla to end their four-tournament losing streak at home to India. Tillakaratne Dilshan will grab the headlines for his maiden century in Sri Lanka, which he celebrated by running halfway to the dressing room and pointing to his shirt number, but his opening partner Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara also played vital roles in a game they desperately wanted to win.

The league phase of the tournament may have had lacklustre crowds, but Dambulla was transformed on the day of the final. A procession of fans led by men on stilts, enjoying baila music from a band sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, made its way through the town as early as 10 am, four hours before the toss. The usually empty roads leading to the stadium had plenty of traffic, parking lots around the ground did brisk business and the bands in the stands kept their volume up right from the toss. In addition to the usual cheerleader, 74-year-old Percy Abeysekera, there were two sets of young, jeans-clad, pom-pom-waving cheergirls.

Dilshan ensured Percy, the girls and the crowd had something to shout about right from the start. He played his bread-and-butter carves over point, and his usual method of planting his front foot down and swinging through the line also fetched plenty of runs. He set about dismantling India's four-man pace attack on what both captains agreed was the best batting track of the series. Only when he was nearing triple figures did Dilshan switch to a lower gear.

Dilshan had lost his match fee after his role in the Suraj Randiv no-ball controversy, and could have got into more disciplinary bother after a verbal spat with Munaf Patel in the seventh over, but the umpires quickly intervened to ensure there was no further drama. Dilshan didn't let that incident, or a knee injury caused by a mis-hit pull off Ishant, affect his focus. "I got a start in last three matches [making 45, 44 and 35]. I was very disappointed at throwing my wicket away." he said. "Today I got the chance and made a hundred."

Jayawardene, promoted ahead of Upul Tharanga again, wasn't at his pleasing best, but he fought it out to put on the tournament's highest opening stand with Dilshan. Despite looking shaky early on, Jayawardene's resolve was always on display. After a first-over lbw reprieve, he wafted outside off against Munaf in the fourth. Immediately, he kicked the ground in disappointment and strolled towards square leg to compose himself. Similarly, when he was beaten by Ishant Sharma in the tenth over, Jayawardene spent plenty of time at the non-striker's end practising his forward defensive technique.

Sri Lanka could have squandered the advantage provided by their openers once Jayawardene fell soon after completing his 9000th ODI run and Upul Tharanga followed, but Sangakkara kept the side on target for the tournament's biggest total. It was a carefully-paced innings - his first 19 runs coming off singles, and opening out only when Dilshan was stuck for a bit in the nineties.  Things were looking ominous for India when he caressed three successive off-side boundaries off Ishant in the 44th over, but he miscued to cover soon after.

This was a match Sangakkara and Sri Lanka needed to win. Twice they had stumbled to India in the final after dominating the early stages of a tournament. You could feel Sri Lanka's intensity most during the frenetic early parts of the chase. Sangakkara behind the stumps, Jayawardene at first slip and Dilshan at backward point were shouting themselves hoarse every time Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara got the ball to dart past the bat or thud into the pads. In nearly every over of the first ten, India had a close call.

While the senior batsmen made the difference, Sangakkara was happy with the discipline of his young bowlers when the Indian batsmen were trying to go after them. The least experienced members of the line-up, Thisara, Perera and Randiv, picked up three wickets each. "The way our bowlers held their nerve, and their lines and lengths, it was a solid bowling and fielding performance," Sangakkara said. "Randiv was very impressive. When Dhoni was out to hit him for as many runs as he could, Randiv kept him pretty quiet."

Sri Lanka's seemingly endless cycle of matches with India over the past two years has come to an end. Sangakkara was thrilled it finished with his team finally winning a decider at home against them for the first time since the Test series in 2008.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sanjeevmukherjee2006 on August 30, 2010, 19:25 GMT

    @nfer, thanks for ur comments even we support SL wen they are playing other countries other than india, it is here in this section that india bashing had gone a bit too far as u told after all it is a game u win some u lose some, remember bcci was with murali in 1995 wen he was labelled as a chucker because we know he doesnt chuck wen ranatunga asked bcci to arrange for a tour because sl board had some financial problems we helped we always consider sl as a good neighbour it is just many people over here who are bashing india if u were in my position u would have felt the same any ways thanks for ur comments and god bless u

  • nivek123 on August 30, 2010, 17:32 GMT

    The Indian team was outplayed and they accepted it. But don't you think the India bashing is getting a bit over the top here.

  • Hiindy on August 30, 2010, 15:19 GMT

    @ Asis Rout.. Hey dude dnt compare the size of the country. if you are saying SL is a minor country ok but this poor minor country has defeat u so many times. We r not even a siz of Indian one state. Just think what this small country which is not even a size of ur one state has done in the cricket. ha ha.. you feel jealous. And at the same time just imagine if we (SL) were a country like india or Australia, hhe he he We would have beaten you sooo many times untill you say please dnt.. This is enough, more than enough... Sooo dnt be a child grow up indians. Anybody can understand Small countries liken SL, NZ and WI dnt get enough matches not just bcz of they play poor cricket. it is bcz of money and sponsorships. in these countries there are small amount of ppl live when compare wt other countries. So sponsors dnt get any publicity for sponsoring for these countries matches. That is the fact dude. But that doesn't mean you ppl can insult those countries when ever you were beaten.

  • Balumekka on August 30, 2010, 14:31 GMT

    Although I am a Sri Lankan fan, I think Indian ODI team is better than the Sri Lankan ODI team. The reason is, India has a population 60 times larger than Sri lankan team. Indians think that their team is the better one, and Sri Lankans think that their team is better. So the vast majority think that India is better. My grandmother told me that this is a democratic world. Therefore I concluded that Indian team is the better one. People talk about failures of Indian batsman apart from Sehwag. Others do not score because there is no need of scoring because Sehwag does it. Indian bowlers do not ball fast not because they cannot bowl fast, because they fear that the faster balls may harm poor Sri Lankan batsman and thats their spirit of cricket. They let the Sri Lankan team to win Micromax cup because they thought wining 4 ODI series in a row in Sri Lanka is enough, and Sri Lankan team also should be given a chance. INDIA IS THE BETTER TEAM IN ALL ASPECTS!!!!!

  • BowlingForever on August 30, 2010, 14:08 GMT

    @sachin_vvsfan I did not blame Dhoni or the indian team for anything.Read my comment before you reply on it!I said that Dhoni used not winning the toss as an excuse. Even saying that the tracks were bad if you can recall the karthik issue! Dhoni in fact is more genuine individual than these indian fans who post comments here. He in fact admitted that the SL performance was far superior. Dhoni should be appreciated for his comments on this because people like shewag cried about missing his century when in fact he has also done similar things of such caliber previously. If you dont know recall the SA match where he hit the ball to the boundary to keep the tail ender on strike and the umpire penalized India.Yeah we know what happens around in world cricket! surprised? So please stop giving remarks on my posts and give remarks to the indian fans out there who are so stubborn to give credit to those who deserve it. SL played far better cricket than india and admit to that rather than going

  • Lion_of_Lanka on August 30, 2010, 13:48 GMT

    @sanjeevmukherjee2006 : Dude, everyone knows that it's Indian batsman (the new generation) who cannot play in bouncy and seaming conditions. We saw that in SA, WI, ENG wcs. It was pathetic to watch guys like Sharma, Raina, Yuvraj struggling against the bouncer. Bangladesh along with us kicked you out of the wc and Zimbabwe did the same few months ago. As for Dili, Sanga & Mahela - They are renowned world class players much like your Dhoni, SRT, Dravid etc. Dili and Mahela were named MOS in last wcs and Sanga has a great record against Aussies. Your comments just show your immaturity and your inability to accept your team's defeat much like you do when your team gets kicked out of the WC. Remember, setting the pavilion on fire in 1996, Stoning Dhoni's house after the 2007 WC? Grow up, It's just a game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The series is over so just move on and focus on the Aussie series. After all if we fail to win the WC, we'll be supporting IND, PAK, BAN to win.

  • Cric_Legends on August 30, 2010, 13:39 GMT

    @ ALL Indian Fans....Please don't Under rate the great Indian Team. Definitely they could able to play better than that...No doubt abt that...There is no question about This Indian team can beat Bang, Ned, Ire in their group stage .....Please Guys pray the GOD to makesure that Indian Team won't meet Either AUS or SL in the Quarter if you really want to see @least Semifinals...Sorry Guys ...Final or the Title not for you this time(2011)...Try to reach Semi is the max for this team..

  • Mutukisna on August 30, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    Reading all the comments by the Indian & SL fans, the arguments about sore losers etc. I have one comment to make. If the Indians are not sore losers then will they assure all cricket fans that if India are on the verge of being knocked out of the World Cup of 2011, will they not resort to burning fires in the stands, throwing bottles and cushions in an attempt to have the match abandoned as was witnessed in the 1996 WC semi-final in Calcutta. Conclusion: It is not just the few Indian fans who subscribe to this column who are sore losers but also the fans in the cricket ground. You will never witness this sort of despicable behaviour in Sri Lanka. Readers can now draw their own conclusions as to where the sore losers hail from, and they are certainly NOT from Sri Lanka!

  • yakesh234 on August 30, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    And also have a look at this: this will tell u how many test match series they have won against each team......

  • sachin_vvsfan on August 30, 2010, 11:48 GMT

    @ AVKS Don't be so distressed mate. SL is definitely one of the strong contenders for the World cup. Its probabaly because of their financial influence(being a small country like NZ)they do not get their due. No need to dwell into the past records. @ Lions_Rock Dhoni did not blame it on umpires its the media and some fans. If you count those low scores then SL top order also scored few in this series and test series against our mediocre bowling attack. Its because of your lower order you scored decent runs and As dhoni admitted they were missing Harbhajan and Zaheer. Now do not point your fingers to the whole INDIA. There are many genuine fans who appreciate the oppositions performance. So I just wish you control your emotions

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