Yadav, Sarandeep help India eke out exciting win
A hard-hitting 50 from Jai P Yadav and a priceless unbeaten 20 from Sarandeep Singh saw India 'A' eke out a two-wicket win over Sri Lanka 'A' in the closely fought third one-dayer at Dambulla on Monday.
With this win, the Indians now take a 1-0 lead in a five-match one-day series that has effectively been whittled down to a best-of-three contest after rain prevented play in the first two matches.
In the morning, India 'A' captain Hrishkesh Kanitkar put the home side in after winning the toss. The early dismissals of Avishka Gunawardene and Romesh Kaluwitharana within the fifth over meant that Kanitkar could almost immediately take justifiable credit for the decision.
Soon, however, his bowlers were facing formidable opponents in the ever-consistent Mohammad Nawaz and Sri Lanka 'A' captain Tillakaratne Dilshan. Batting with great assurance, Nawaz and Dilshan began to undertake the repair job with a meticulousness that had been missing in the flashy openers. The two added 65 runs before Nawaz fell for 39.
But the home side's grief was brief; next man LPC Silva proving a worthy replacement. In the company of his captain, Silva added 96 runs for the fourth wicket before falling for a quickfire 56 off 58 balls.
Dilshan (66 off 115 balls) followed soon after, as did number seven M Pushpakumara - his duck continuing a long run of failures. The tail also failed to wag, but an unbeaten hard-hitting 31 off 24 balls from number six AS Polonowita saw the home side reach a respectable 235 for nine in their 50 overs.
The Indians began their chase on a promising note, with in-form openers Gautam Gambhir and Akash Chopra adding 41 runs before Chopra fell for 22. There was to be no stirring innings from Kanitkar, who replaced him; the India 'A' skipper fell for just 15 with the score on 68.
Gambhir then found an ally in Rohan Gavaskar. The partnership between the two left-handers realised 61 before Gambhir fell for a well-made 60 off 85 balls. Gavaskar then joined hands with Yadav, the next man, to put on 42 runs for the fourth wicket before being dismissed for 50.
Another healthy partnership ensued between wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel and Yadav. With the latter hitting some hefty blows, the duo put on 41 runs before Patel became the fifth India 'A' wicket to fall, with the score on 212.
The loss of two quick wickets must have rattled the Indian dressing room, but fortunately for them, next man Sarandeep Singh proved to be up to the task.
Displaying a confidence that he must have gained from his big partnership with Rahul Dravid in India's first Test against the West Indies, Singh calmly proceeded to knock off the required runs. Even the fall of Yadav for 51 failed to prevent him from taking his side to an exciting win in the 50th over.
Sarandeep's 20 off 22 balls with three fours, which bailed the Indians out, helped his side ward off a lion-hearted performance from Sri Lanka 'A' medium-pacer Pramodya Wickramasinghe, who claimed five for 46 off his 10 overs.