DAMBULLA (Sri Lanka): A spineless India crashed to their biggest ODI defeat in terms of balls remaining as Sri Lanka stormed into the final of the tri-series with a resounding eight wicket victory on Sunday.
Thisara Perera produced a devastating spell of seam bowling to record his maiden five-wicket haul and play a big role in Sri Lanka’s comprehensive victory.
The 21-year-old Perera (5/28) ripped through the Indian middle order with a fine exhibition of swing bowling to skittle out the visitors for a paltry 103 in just 33.4 overs, their third lowest total against the Sri Lankans, in what turned out to be a totally lop-sided contest.
The fired-up Sri Lankans rattled up the required runs of 104 in just 15.1 overs to gain a bonus point and become the first team to move into the final.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (35) and Mahela Jayawardene (33) virtually toyed with the Indian bowlers as they plundered runs at will to set up the chase brilliantly.
Paceman Ishant Sharma dismissed both the openers Dilshan and Jayawardene in two consecutive deliveries but it came too late in the day as the islanders overhauled the target with 209 balls to spare.
Till now, India’s biggest defeat in terms of balls remaining was 174 against Australia at Sydney in 1981. In that match, India had scored 63 and Australia responded with 64 for one.
It was an abject surrender by the lacklustre Indians who were outplayed in all departments of the game.
The hosts completed their league engagements with 11 points and India will have to now win their last match against New Zealand on Wednesday to secure a berth in the final. New Zealand have seven points and India five points.
Pacemen Lasith Malinga (2/21) and Nuwan Kulasekara (2/31) also chipped in with wickets to compound India’s misery on a day when nothing seemed to go right for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men.
Only Yuvraj Singh provided a semblance of resistance with a gritty 38 as the the Indian batsmen succumbed tamely on what appeared to be a spongy two-paced track at the Rangiri Dambulla International stadium.
Yuvraj was a victim of a dubious leg before decision and there were a couple of dodgy decisions during the Indian innings but that was no excuse for the pathetic display.
After the furore of the no-ball incident in the past few days, the Sri Lankans seemed all charged up for the must-win game and Dhoni’s decision to bat first after winning the toss completely backfired.
The Indians never really recovered from a poor start as wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals with the hosts exploiting the overcast conditions well.
Paceman Kulasekara struck the first blow by getting rid of dangerman Virender Sehwag, who was stranded on 99 in the last match after Suraj Randiv deliberately bowled a no- ball to spark off a major controversy.
Sehwag was trapped leg before wicket to Kulasekara’s sharp inswinger and umpire Kumar Dharmasena had no hesitation in giving him out. The Indian opener was not too happy with the decision as he walked back to the pavillion.
Dinesh Karthik, who has struggled to find form right through the series, was the next man to be dismissed with Kulasekara doing the damage again.
Karthik edged the ball to captain and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara who was standing close to the stumps to prevent the batsman from walking down and negating the swing.
With India struggling at 26 for two, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh tried to steady the innings by playing cautiously against the Sri Lankan speedsters who bowled a disciplined line and length.
Rohit Sharma, who has also been struggling to find form, could not hang around for long, as Angelo Mathews plotted his dismissal with a gem of an inswinger which trapped the batsman plumb in front of the wicket.
Soon Suresh Raina joined him in the pavilion as he fell prey to Perera and the Indians were in the doldrums at a precarious 61 for four in the 18th over.
Perera struck again a few overs later by removing Dhoni who edged the ball to Sangakkara behind the stumps. The ball held its line enough to get the edge and Sangakkara made no mistake.
Perera then removed Ravindra Jadeja for a nine-ball duck and dismissed Praveen Kumar in the very first ball with Tharanga latching on to a simple catch at mid-off.
Yuvraj, who returned to the team after being laid low by a mild dengue, was the only batsmen who seemed comfortable in the middle as wickets kept falling at the other end.
Running out of partners, the stylish left hander picked up Perera for special treatment clobbering him for a boundary and a six to take India close to the hundred-run mark.(PTI)