Finally, things click for Sri Lanka
Finally, Sri Lanka won. It's been a tough ten days for the hosts. It has been an even tougher last couple of months where they have been put through a grueling schedule. "I would be lying if I said we are not tired," Mahela Jayawardene said at the start of the series. Today, the Sri Lankan captain reiterated it again while putting a positive spin about how it had been a nice challenge to face India.
Finally, Sri Lanka won a toss. Not that the toss decided the result of the series but it was a good opportunity to allow the batsmen to play first without pressure. Pleasingly, they came good.
Finally, the top three came good as a unit. Kumar Sangakkara was allowed to ease into his rhythm due to the rapid start given by Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan. And importantly, Dilshan dropped anchor and the pair formed a big partnership. However, Sri Lanka started the series depending heavily on the top three and this win has further highlighted the dependence. Jayawardene has shown glimpses of regaining his ODI form, Thilina Kandamby showed that he has the potential but he needs to be more consistent and the selectors must be running out of patience on Chamara Kapugedera.
Finally, M&M could bowl with the batsmen having to hit them with a pressure of a target. The two spinners picked up four wickets for 85 and proved difficult to get away. But for Sri Lanka to win consistently, Ajantha Mendis has to turn it on when the pressure is on him. "We were very happy with the way we played him," said Mahendra Singh Dhoni. "We didn't want to give wickets to him and it has worked."
Finally, India leveled the playing field with their team combination. They didn't slacken, nor were they complacent, but rightly the management decided to test the bench strength in full force. Rohit Sharma didn't seize his chance, Suresh Raina, promoted to No. 3, also flopped, L Balaji, playing an ODI after more than three years, didn't embarrass himself and the debutant Ravindra Jadeja turned in a "very decent effort", according to Dhoni. Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar weren't there and though he again went for over six-runs-an-over, Ishant Sharma had another good lesson on bowling on flat tracks.
"Overall, Bala [Balaji] was good," said Dhoni. "He didn't get a chance to bowl later in the game and he was bowling first-change." However, Dhoni kept the bench players on their foot with a note of advice. "Everybody has to improve." The contest for those playing XI spots is heating up.
"Overall, we need to put in more effort and that is what important as it is not about the guys played today or earlier matches, it is a continuous process," said Dhoni. "You need to mature with every game and you have to learn from each of your performance whether you win or lose. That is very important. "
India's run of nine wins on the trot was snapped, but they have an eye on the future. "Today, giving chances to the players were not a forced choice," said Dhoni, "but there might be a case tomorrow, where some bowlers might get injured and we might be forced to play the other bowlers. If the bowlers get in without match practice then, it will be difficult to put pressure on opposition. We are happy with a series win here."
Finally, the crowd had some reason to smile. The numbers dwindled as the series went on but a small faithful turned up every game in hope that their team would give them a reason to smile. And they did today.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo