Sangakkara’s ton leads Sri Lanka past India and to top of Asia Cup table

sangkaraFATULLAH (Bangladesh):  Experienced Kumar Sangakkara showed the way with a breathtaking 84-ball 103 as Sri Lanka recovered from a middle-order batting collapse to pull off a thrilling two-wicket victory over India in the Asia Cup here on Friday.
Chasing 265 for win, the islanders rode on the 36-year-old’s masterclass to complete the task with four balls to spare at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium.
The win helped Sri Lanka jump to the top of table in the five-nation continental tournament.
With Shikhar Dhawan (94) and Virat Kohli (48) taking India to 264 for nine after being sent into bat, Sri Lanka were cruising at 134 for one after the butterfingered Indian fielders dropped three catches.But Ravindra Jadeja, who scalped two wickets in two balls en route to 3/30 and Ravichandran Aswhin (2/42), brought back the Indians. However, Sangakkara stood firm till the penultimate over, in the process striking 12 boundaries and a six.
Continuing his dream run in Bangladesh that include one triple century, three centuries and two half-centuries across Test and ODI formats, Sangakkara looked in complete control even as he lacked support at the other end, after the departure of Kusal Perera (64).
With his team under pressure, the experienced campaigner ensured that he took Sri Lanka close to the target as he completed his 18th ODI century with a boundary in 83 balls, only to be dismissed by Mohammed Shami in the next ball.By the time he was dismissed, the Lankans were close to the finishing line, requiring seven runs from nine balls.With the scores levelled in the penultimate over, it was as good as over for India as they dropped their fourth catch, this time Dhawan goofing up at mid-off.
Earlier, Ajantha Mendis returned to haunt India as they were restricted to a modest total.Dhawan and Kohli led India’s recovery in a 97-run second wicket partnership before Mendis struck.The spinner castled Kohli and Dhawan with his carrom ball en route to figures of 4/60 while off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake scalped 3/41 as the much talked-about India’s newlook  middle-order struggled in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.Ajinkya Rahane (22) and Ambati Rayudu (18) looked good but could not covert their starts while Stuart Binny did not trouble the scorers after being packed off for a nought.
In a match of several twists and turns, Sri Lanka had the upper hand to begin the 265-run chase as India dropped three catches including two by Jadeja and one by Rahane, two of India’s better fielders.
Making full use of India’s sloppy fielding, the in-form opening duo of Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne gave the Lankans a flying start, before Ashwin and Jadeja struck.India had limited spin resources with two specialists in Ashwin and Jadeja and Kohli had to squeeze in five overs from Rohit Sharma’s part-time offspin as medium pacer Binny could not make any impact
The duo finished their respective quotas in the 45th over, with Sri Lanka needing 44 from 30 balls. Making amends for his two dropped catches, Jadeja turned the match around for India with two wickets in two balls.After the comedy of errors in the first hours’ play, India were never in the picture and looked to have given up in their body language.
Such was their plight that Jadeja, who is considered among the better Indian fielders dropped two catches, which would have been easy ones for him on any other day.It seemed India were never able to recover from their first jolt — literally when Dhawan and Rahane, another two sharp fielders, chased mindlessly for a skier, only to see the ball spill past the boundary.
In the first ball of Mohammed Shami’s second over, the rusty Perera, on seven, miscued one towards point as it looked to be Dhawan’s call from the boundary.But neither Rahane, who went backwards from the circle, nor Dhawan, displayed any cricketing sense to call for the catch and ended up colliding against each other.Shami was unfortunate once again when, in his next over, last match’s centurion Thirimanne got a reprieve from a diving Jadeja at cover.
Jadeja had his right hand over the ball but it was clearly not India’s day as the Lankan left-handed openers went about their task briskly, posting 51 from the power play.As if that was not enough, Jadeja spilled another when Perera was batting on 38. The diving Indian fielder could not hold on to the ball at deep midwicket
In the first over of Sri Lankan innings, India were unfortunate with an umpiring decision as Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s appeal against Thirimanne was turned down by Nigel Llong, despite the replays showing that the ball was on the line and hitting the stumps.Ashwin was welcomed by a six by Thirimanne, who whacked the off-spinner’s second ball over long-off. Ashwin, though, was soon among the wickets en route to his 100th ODI scalps in his 77th game.
Earlier, having included in place of medium pacer Suranga Lakmal, Mendis did not let the Lankans down.
The pitch behaved differently with the ball staying low right from the very first over. It was the perfect condition to test the Indian openers who were in the middle of a prolonged lean patch.
Rohit Sharma, particularly, struggled to cope with the odd ball as Sri Lanka, who were playing with three specialist spinners, brought on Senanayake in the sixth over.
Sri Lanka seemed in perfect control to begin with, conceding only 37 runs in the first power play, which also yielded Sharma’s wicket. The Mumbaikar’s anxious stay came to an end when he got out to a dubious decision. Umpire Llong ruled the batsman out despite being long way down the track.
India’s fortunes then took a turn for better with last-match centurion Kohli starting off with a boundary. At the other end, Dhawan looked to have got his fluency back against a spin-oriented Lankan attack, and Kohli’s reassuring presence further calmed the left-hander’s nerves.Sri Lanka’s pace attack lacked bite after skipper Mathews left the field midway into his third over with a niggle.
With Kohli in exquisite form and Dhawan back among runs, the duo looked in control of the proceedings. Dhawan completed his half-century in 68 balls, the left-hander’s first 50-plus score in nine matches. And, in the next over, Kohli smashed Chaturanga de Silva over midwicket.Dhawan joined the party with a boundary and and a six off Perera helping India to 128/1 in 26 overs when a smart decision to bring in Mendis from the pavilion end did the trick for Sri Lanka.
Mendis, who had a listless 4-0-22-0 in the first spell, bowled a carrom ball to castle Kohli, who fell two runs short of a half-century.The prized scalp broke India’s back, and the middle order caved in. India took the batting power play early in the 33rd over, but the inexperienced middle-order in Rahane, Rayudu, Karthik and Binny could not deliver.Only 28 runs and Rahane’s wicket in the batting powerplay was the beginning of India’s downfall.

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