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India flummoxed by Mathews

Angelo Mathews had Yusuf Pathan caught behind for 1 AFP

This was a game India could afford to lose, but the manner in which they did was discouraging. History was against them - no side has successfully chased over 300 in the 93 one-day matches played here - and facing a towering target, India collapsed spectacularly.

In a big chase, India never got partnerships going. Sachin Tendulkar was briefly impressive but didn't dominate the bowling; Rahul Dravid overcame another testy start, but couldn't translate his 47 into a substantial innings. The rest made fleeting appearances.

MS Dhoni, after the match, was left with few excuses for India's biggest defeat, in terms of runs, in Sri Lanka. "It was one of the worst days, starting in the season. Frankly, I have nothing to say right now ... they played very well ... Sanath [Jayasuriya] batted well and [Angelo] Matthews bowled really well. The only thing that went well for us was the warm-up before the game!"

Even as poor batting performances go, this was a headless chicken. If you give six wickets to Angelo Mathews, that's a blow to the guts. Trying to live up to the role of a "genuine allrounder", today he found himself with a rich haul of wickets. It was a smart display of bowling, as Mathews combined changes of pace with a keen understanding of Sri Lankan pitches to make run-scoring difficult.

Repeatedly pitching the ball just short of a length and getting the odd one to sit up alongside crafty cutters, Mathews ran riot. Suresh Raina tried to run his first ball down to third man and edged it. Dravid, after being fed a series of length deliveries, received a fuller one and was beaten for the extra bit of pace. Dhoni got one that was held back and cut in and drew the inside edge. Yusuf Pathan got a slower one that stopped on him.

Sri Lankan spinners are masters of their conditions. The fast bowlers are skilled at taking the pace off the ball. Tonight Mathews took a bit out of both characteristics and did a job that Muttiah Muralitharan has performed many times. He knew just what length to bowl to induce the mistake and delivered a lesson in the art of bowling stump-to-stump, varying the length and cutting the ball. After the match, with a twinkle in his eye, Mathews said: "It was a dream spell. I was just trying to land the ball on the correct spot and the ball did the rest."

"He is a very solid player .. the allrounder we are looking for .. he has a great future," his captain Kumar Sangakkara said. "Talent is one thing but real hard work and consistency is another matter. He is on the right track, I am sure he won't get carried away and continue to work hard."

The fielders backed up the bowlers superbly. Sangakkara took a splendid tumbling catch down the leg side to get Dinesh Karthik. His diving catch, to his wrong side, to get Raina was a beauty. Tillakaratne Dilshan's work in the arc behind point would have made Jonty Rhodes proud. Sri Lanka were relentless in the field unlike India, who allowed extra runs through sloppy fielding and overthrows. Put them together and you have a significant difference between winning and losing. India just did not play well enough.

Going into the final against a team that they have struggled to beat in finals this decade, India have precious little to time to iron out the chinks.