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Winning it in singles

Before this all-important match for India, Tom Moody, Sri Lanka's coach, had reminded all that not too much could be read into recent Sri Lanka's defeats in India, as playing the same team in neutral conditions would be a completely different proposition. Those words turned out to be prophetic, as Sri Lanka read and adapted to the conditions much better.

The pitch offered some assistance to the bowlers, and the outfield was sluggish, denying complete value for shots, and the Sri Lankan batsmen moulded their game perfectly. They tided through the tough period initially, and then gradually built momentum, mainly through singles and twos.

Sri Lanka only scored 94 out of 254 runs in boundaries, which is just 37% of their total runs. India, on the other hand, score 41% of their runs in boundaries, but just couldn't find the singles and twos as easily. The table below shows how the two teams scored their runs, and the prominent difference is the 27 extra singles that Sri Lanka managed.

In the middle overs (between 21 and 40), Sri Lanka played 14 fewer dot balls, and pinched nine extra singles. When the Indians batted, Muttiah Muralitharan ensured that India struggled in the middle overs - in his last 20 ODIs against India, Murali has taken 34 wickets at an average of 17.82 and an economy rate of 3.75.

The partnership which epitomised Sri Lanka's batting strategy was the 83-run fifth-wicket stand between Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan. They scored their runs off just 80 balls, but only 28 of those runs were in boundaries. Instead, the perfected the art of placing the ball in the gaps and running the singles - there were 42 ones, and just 27 dot balls. India would have expected plenty from Harbhajan Singh, who was brought into the side at the expense of Anil Kumble, but he was quite ineffective, going for 53 from ten, off which 29 runs came in singles.

Sri Lanka clearly outperformed India in the second half of the match, but Rahul Dravid will be justified in believing that with better luck his team would have been chasing far fewer than 255. In the first 20 overs of the Sri Lankan innings, the Indian seamers - Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel - beat the bat or found the edge 39 times, which is nearly twice per over. On another day five of those near-misses might have resulted in dismissals; today, Sri Lanka had the rub of the green, and once they survived that early passage of play, India didn't have a chance.

Other highlights

  • Silva, who made a crucial 59, has now scored four successive fifty-plus scores in ODIs - the earlier three had all been unbeaten knocks. The innings pushed Silva's average up into the 40s - it's now 40.18 after 17 matches.

  • Sri Lanka have now won 12 out of the 16 times when they have set India a target of more than 250. Significantly, all four of India's wins have come at home.

  • Future Indian captains might think twice before inserting the opposition in to bat in World Cup games. In the 12 instances when they have tried that, India have only won four.

  • When Sourav Ganguly flicked the first ball he faced from Lasith Malinga for a couple, he became the second Indian player, and the eighth in all, to get 1000 World Cup runs. Australia, West Indies and India are the only teams which have three players in the 1000-run club. (Click here for the highest run-scorers in World Cups.)

  • This was only the second duck for Sachin Tendulkar in 35 World Cup innings. Tendulkar has so far played 36 World Cup games - if Bangladesh beat Bermuda and India get knocked out of the tournament, Tendulkar will have to wait till the 2011 edition to go past Akram's record 38.

  • Chaminda Vaas has become the fifth bowler to concede more than 10,000 in one-day internationals. He joins Wasim Akram, Sanath Jayasuriya, Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan.

  • Dravid's half-century was his 78th in ODIs, which is second only to Inzamam-ul-Haq's 83. Tendulkar has 77 ODI fifties.