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August 27, 2008
Flavours of throttle
Different positions, same effort. With Kumar Sangakkara standing up to the stumps Gautam Gambhir didn't walk down to the fast bowlers but shuffled around to try and create room. Off In successive balls he succeeded in cutting Chaminda Vaas but the bowler was backed up by brilliant fielding. First Gambhir walked across to outside off stump and chopped one to the left of gully, where Mahela Jayawardene dived and saved four. Next ball he cut the ball hard further away from Jayawardene but Tillakaratne Dilshan, at backward point, pulled off an acrobatic aerial fling to prevent runs. Soon after a frustrated Gambhir cut a short ball to Dilshan at backward point and was out.
At long last ...
Vaas' search for his 400th one-day wicket had been put on hold by a left hamstring injury, a wicketless yet economic spell in game three, and Tuesday's washout. Today he finally got there, and the noise at the Premadasa could have been heard round the island. With the first ball of his seventh over Vaas got Yuvraj Singh to edge one that went straight to short midwicket. As the stadium erupted into a tumultuous din, Vaas spread his arms, shut his eyes, and roared before his team-mates swamped him. Then he was lifted into the air. It was an endearing moment and a landmark thoroughly deserved by a Sri Lankan legend. Fittingly, Suresh Raina couldn't score off the remaining five balls, and Vaas, that most economical of bowlers, finished with a maiden over. He became only the fourth bowler to reach the landmark.
Third time's a charm
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has altered his game to suit the needs of his team, especially since becoming captain, but in one over today, early into his innings, he tried to have a real crack at Thilan Thushara. He attempted to cut and drive the ball, once even sashaying forward, but could not time or place the ball where he wanted. Then he connected, and how. Thushara dropped fractionally short and Dhoni pressed back to slap the ball past short-cover before anyone could blink. That was it for pace, and Sri Lanka opted for spin from both ends.
Raina welcomed the mandatory change of ball after 34 overs with a sweetly timed bended-knee six off Muttiah Muralitharan, no less. He cleared his front leg and slog-swept Murali over deep midwicket. It was a shot executed much the way Raina has been seen thumping his UP team-mate Piyush Chawla in the nets. After admiring his shot Raina walked halfway down the track, towards a fatigued Dhoni, and executed it again.
A sweeping success
Plenty of Dhoni's 71 runs came through paddle sweeps, some pulled off well and others scrambling off the edge of his bat as he cramped up in humid conditions. His fifty came up with a cute paddle for two, after which he hobbled off towards square leg. Watching Raina succeed with reverse-sweeping the spinners hard for singles, Dhoni took a cue and played it to perfection off Sanath Jayasuriya in the 39th over. It wasn't ferociously done, like Raina, but rather placed effortlessly. The ball went straight to the boundary and Dhoni forced a gentle smile Raina's way.
Stuck in a moment
The way Dhoni was going, it needed something special to cut him off and Jayasuriya did just that. Dhoni made room and drilled a full and wide delivery towards cover, where at 39 years and 58 days, the wily old fox pulled off a spectacular diving catch to his left. It was a superb example of precision, reflexes and athleticism. That beauty sparked a stunning Indian collapse of six wickets for 26 runs.
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