Bhuvneshwar, Rohit carry India to final
India 119 for 3 (Rohit 48*) beat Sri Lanka 96 (Bhuvneshwar 4-8) by 81 runs (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
After a four-and-a-half hour rain interruption, Sri Lanka had ten wickets available over a truncated 26 overs to chase 178. India needed to restrict Sri Lanka to 167 or below to make the final ahead of West Indies. In an ideal Twenty20 world, this was a situation loaded in favour of the chasing side. The Queen's Park Oval pitch, with patches of green spiced up by all the rain, was an ideal Test bowler's paradise, though. And Bhuvneshwar Kumar used it to perfection, ending the chase early and taking India to the final with a spell of 6-1-8-4, his best international figures.
Bhuvneshwar got the ball to do so much, even survival became a lottery, leave alone a chase that began at an asking rate of close to seven an over. Some moved in, some moved away, some hit a green patch and bounced extra, with Bhuvneshwar's impeccable control forcing the batsmen to play at almost everything. It was only his 16th ODI, but Bhuvneshwar has already built up a reputation for striking early in his spell. Again, he did not disappoint.
Upul Tharanga flashed to the slips in Bhuvneshwar's second over, Kumar Sangakkara got a first-ball shocker of a leg-before decision, Mahela Jayawardene could not keep a cut down, and Lahiru Thirimanne hit an airy drive. In no time, Sri Lanka were 31 for 4, and India already had the final within their sights. Of course, it was the asking rate that made the batsmen play all those strokes, but against the combination of Bhuvneshwar and the pitch, the attempts were doomed to fail. The spinners found generous help from the pitch as well, and made sure there was no fightback from the Sri Lanka lower middle order. The margin of the win showed just how futile a T20-style chase can be on a difficult pitch.
This pitch was so difficult it forced even the usually flashy Rohit Sharma to play the survival game. A battered and struggling Rohit fought the conditions, his own lack of touch, and a disciplined Sri Lanka attack but still hung in to build a base for India. But we will never know what could have been in this Rohit knock as the rain terminated India's innings at 119 for 3 in 29 overs.
Though the normally free-flowing Rohit's grind wasn't easy on the eye, it was far more refreshing to see him unwilling to fall to a soft dismissal, though he benefited from a dropped catch off Lasith Malinga when on 11.
Despite West Indies losing both their games on the same ground after choosing to bowl, Angelo Mathews had no hesitation in doing the same. And his attack bowled far better than West Indies had, which was highly commendable, considering they had sent down 41 overs a day ago against the hosts. There was swing, seam, sharp lift, and the occasional low bounce.
Rohit was beaten several times by the movement initially, but to his credit, he played the original line close to his body. For some time, Virat Kohli looked even more uncomfortable than Rohit had and even played out a maiden to Malinga for the first time.
Kohli slowly started to come to terms against the fast bowlers and put away the rare wide delivery. Perhaps the pitch made Kohli hesitant to get forward against spin as well, and led to his downfall, when he went back and was caught in front by a flighted Rangana Herath slider, cutting short a second-wicket stand of 49 in 14.1 overs.
Rohit, meanwhile, continued to find it hard, inside-edging onto the box, and taking blows on the glove. He did slog-sweep Herath for six but the left-arm spinner hit back in his next over, when another India batsman played back to him. This time, Dinesh Karthik got a turner that spun away to hit his off stump. India were three down now, making it even more important for Rohit to not give it away. As it turned out, though, he had already done enough, after which Bhuvneshwar took over.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo