Dhoni's redemption and Pathan's reflief
MS Dhoni had hurt his left hamstring while batting and struggled throughout with his wicketkeeping later. Lahiru Thirimanne and Jeevan Mendis had revived Sri Lanka's chase when Thirimanne guided Zaheer Khan to Dhoni's left in the 36th over. It wasn't a very difficult take but Dhoni dived clumsily, managed to get only the left glove to the ball, and dropped it. Two balls later, Thirimanne was sent back when he attempted a tight run towards mid-on. Zaheer collected the throw from the fielder, and threw it to the other end where Dhoni charged forward, took the ball, and broke the stumps to run Thirimanne out.
Tiwary had been India's best bowler in the previous game with 4 for 61. Thirimanne took just one over to remind him of his part-time status. With two left-handers at the crease, bringing on the legspinner Tiwary was anyway risky. Thirimanne ensured Tiwary did not get away, stepping out to loft him for two big sixes over deep midwicket. That was the only over Tiwary got today.
The punch and the counter
For the first four balls of the 38th over, Lasith Malinga was on fire. He first had Manoj Tiwary fending a bouncer to short third man. The second ball, also short, consumed Suresh Raina. Dhoni somehow managed to keep the hat-trick ball down. The fourth ball pinged Dhoni on the helmet and flew over the keeper. The last two balls were pitched up. And Dhoni immediately counter-attacked, thumping them through the off side for consecutive fours.
Irfan Pathan was the allrounder Indian cricket had, then lost, and then regained in a toned-down version. He improved his batting, lost his bowling, went out, and returned claiming to have rediscovered himself. When he bowled Sachithra Senanayake to pick up his fifth wicket off the last ball of his tenth over, there was a mixture of happiness and relief on Irfan's face. He smiled, jumped, raised his arms and looked up at the sky, as if thankful to have been able to come back to the side. Even after the end of the over, as he was walking to his fielding position, he continued to look up heavenwards.
The unusual field setting
When Malinga lofted and drilled Ashok Dinda to the extra cover boundary for consecutive fours, Sri Lanka needed just 21 runs off 28 deliveries with only one wicket remaining. Dhoni pulled fine leg out and put in two extra covers. With fine leg vacant, and the off-side field packed, Malinga tried to hit down the ground, but ended up finding long-off on the edge of the rope. Game over.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo