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February 10, 2009
On a day when the Hussey brothers did the winning act for Australia, India found their answer in the two Pathans, with Yusuf and Irfan scripting a thrilling three-wicket win in the one-off Twenty20 game. Set a challenging 172 for victory, India seemed to have botched up the chase when Sri Lanka's spinners reduced them to 115 for 7, but then came the last twist on an evening which had several: a 59-run partnership off 25 balls, and India were home and dry with four balls to spare, ending the tour with five wins in six games.
The Twenty20 game is designed to thrill, and this game did that in ample measure: there were 345 runs scored in 39.2 overs, with 11 sixes and 32 fours. The most important of them, though, came late in the evening from the Pathan brothers, after it seemed Sri Lanka's spinners had spun the match irreversibly in their favour.
From an utterly dominant 81 for 2 after eight overs, India lost their next five wickets for 34 runs as Malinga Bandara, the legspinner, and Sanath Jayasuriya turned it around with a mix of fine bowling and some curious shot selection from the Indians. With Yuvraj Singh - who continued his sublime form with an utterly dominant 21-ball 32 - Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja all back in the hutch and the asking rate an imposing 11.40 an over, Sri Lanka were well on their way to an incredible come-from-behind victory.
Enter the Pathan brothers. Yusuf had already made a name for himself in the IPL, and here he decided to remind the Sri Lankans of his prowess before the second season which starts later this year. The second ball he faced, from Bandara, was smashed over extra cover, the next one disappeared behind the sightscreen, and two balls later, another hit vanished over wide long-on. The requirement had come down to 40 from four overs.
That forced Tillakaratne Dilshan to abandon the idea of bowling more overs of spin, but when the fast bowlers returned, Irfan was ready to join in the fun. Lasith Malinga was carved over extra-cover for a one-bounce four, Dilhara Fernando was clubbed over midwicket for six, before the coup de grace was finally delivered off Malinga with a meaty blow over midwicket. Game, set, and match for the Pathan brothers.
Till that amazing turnaround, the match had gone pretty well for Sri Lanka and for first-time captain Dilshan: he won the toss - something that has been as rare as a victory for Sri Lanka in this series - starred with the bat despite a shaky start with a busy 61 to lift his team out of a mid-innings slump, and then, doing the job of makeshift wicketkeeper, even managed a sharp catch to dismiss the fluent and in-form Yuvraj. When he did make mistakes, lady luck still smiled on him: Irfan dropped a sitter in the first over when Dilshan was 0, but when Dilshan missed a chance from Raina on 28, it only cost his team seven runs.
It was with the bat, though, that Dilshan made his biggest contribution, getting to his first half-century in this format. Sensibly, he played the second fiddle to the rampaging Jayasuriya, contributing just 18 in an opening partnership of 59. Thereafter, he assumed the role of senior batsman, flaying through the off side, running hard, and pushing the score along with some support from Chamara Kapugedera. Ishant Sharma, who redeemed himself somewhat with a fine last over, and Zaheer were pasted all over the park by a marauding Jayasuriya and Dilshan as 53 came in the first five overs.
At that stage, a total of around 200 was well on the cards, but Sri Lanka lost the plot completely in the middle overs, scoring just 36 between the sixth and 12th overs, as Jehan Mubarak did his best to neutralise the momentum his team had got from Jayasuriya's early blitz. Eighty-two came from the last eight, which ensured Sri Lanka had a reasonable total to defend, but Dilshan will still rue the sloppiness of his bowlers. There were seven wides in the first six overs, and ten in all, and Dilshan was left screaming at his bowlers and wringing his hands in despair.
His spinners brought his team back into the contest, just as India's had, but the ultimate difference was the last three overs of both teams: Sri Lanka scored 19; India hammered 30.
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