Thursday, February 22, 2024

India power to World Cup triumph

India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in a pulsating final to deliver World Cup glory to their cricket-mad population for the first time since 1983.
Sri Lanka smashed 91 from their last 10 overs to post 274-6 in Mumbai, with Mahela Jayawardene making a superb 103.
India lost Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early on but Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Dhoni rebuilt the innings.
Gambhir was out for 97, but captain Dhoni’s brilliant unbeaten 91 led India to a famous win with 10 balls to spare.
The skipper, struggling for form throughout the tournament, played the innings of his life and sealed the victory with a phenomenal straight six that sailed high into the stands, providing the catalyst for euphoric celebrations in the Wankhede Stadium.
Tendulkar’s early dismissal for 18 ensured there was to be no fairytale 100th international century for Mumbai’s favourite son.
But wonderful innings from Gambhir and Dhoni ensured the “Little Master” can finally get his hands on the sport’s ultimate prize at the sixth attempt as India became the first host nation to win the tournament, while Jayawardene became the first player to score a hundred in the final and finish on the losing side.
Meanwhile, it was a sad end to the incredible career of Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan who, having battled injuries throughout the event, failed to take a wicket in his last international match.
And when the Sri Lankan inquest begins, they will surely regret the decision to make four changes for the final, only one of which was enforced.
With off-spinner Ajantha Mendis dropped, replacement bowlers Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara and Suraj Randiv managed only one wicket between them.
Chasing a total 46 runs higher than the previous best under lights at the venue, prolific openers Sehwag and Tendulkar stepped out to a cacophony of noise.
But it only took two balls for the mood inside the stadium to be transformed as Sehwag failed to get his bat on a full straight delivery from Lasith Malinga and was trapped in front of his stumps.
Tendulkar, seemingly carrying the hopes of a billion Indians on his shoulders, soon had the crowd in a frenzy with two sumptuous boundaries off Kulasekara, but hopes of a fairytale 100th international century in his home city were to be sadly dashed.
Kumar Sangakkara’s decision to give Malinga a fourth over with the new ball proved a masterstroke as the paceman tempted Tendulkar into a swipe outside off stump and a thick edge was taken low by the captain himself behind the stumps.
While Malinga wheeled away in celebration with his team-mates in pursuit, a stunned silence fell over the Wankhede.
Gambhir and Virat Kohli would have been forgiven for going into their shell but the duo remained positive in seeing India to 105-2 off 20 overs.
Their partnership had reached 83 when Kohli got a leading edge to a Tillakaratne Dilshan delivery and was brilliantly caught one-handed by the bowler for 35.
Dhoni, whose previous highest score at the tournament was 34, took the brave decision to promote himself up the batting order above Yuvraj Singh and after a watchful start he started to find his range on his favoured off side.
The right-hander’s partnership with the left-handed Gambhir kept the Sri Lanka bowlers guessing and gradually the duo chipped away at the total.
After taking the score past 200, Dhoni required treatment for a side strain but the skipper did not lose any focus as he leant back and chopped Muralitharan through the off side for four.
Without ever batting with the fluency of Jayawardene, Gambhir worked his way to within three of a famous hundred before he was clean bowled by Perera to give Sri Lanka hope.
With the score on 241-4, Sri Lanka thought they had run out Dhoni when Kapugadera’s throw hit the stumps but with replays inconclusive, the India skipper was reprieved.
After 46 overs, Sangakkara made the surprise decision to throw the ball to Kulasekara instead of the clearly disgruntled Muralitharan and the tactic back-fired as India helped themselves to 11 runs.
The same number followed from Malinga’s next over to put India on the brink of victory, before Yuvraj Singh took a single to give Dhoni the strike with four more runs needed.
The wicketkeeper-batsman’s stunning final blow provided a fitting end to a memorable final.
Earlier, the coin toss was shrouded in confusion as the noise of the crowd rendered Sangakkara’s call inaudible to match referee Jeff Crowe. He ordered a re-toss, which was won by the Sri Lanka captain, who opted to bat to the obvious frustration of his opposite number Dhoni.
When the action began, India settled the faster with seamer Zaheer Khan getting straight into rhythm.
Suffocating Upul Tharanga with a tight off stump line, he bowled three consecutive maidens before having the batsman caught at slip for two off a perfect outswinger.
Dilshan took his tournament run haul to exactly 500 before he was dismissed by Harbhajan Singh in the spinner’s second over. The batsman attempted a sweep but the ball struck his arm and thigh pad before rebounding agonisingly on to his stumps.
Veteran pair Sangakkara and Jayawardene got the innings back on track with a partnership of 62 as Sri Lanka reached 122-2 in the 28th over.
But their stand was broken by Yuvraj as Sangakkara – two short of his half-century – attempted a square cut to a shorter ball and got a faint edge through to Dhoni.
Jayawardene, who reached fifty from 49 balls, produced an innings of impeccable touch and timing, scoring heavily in the third man area and keeping his score moving at a run a ball to drag his team towards a competitive total.
With Sreesanth leaking runs, Dhoni was forced to use part-time bowlers Tendulkar and Kohli before recalling Zaheer to the attack.
But it was the irrepressible Yuvraj who struck the next blow. Thilan Samaraweera got too far across his stumps attempting to sweep and was struck on the thigh. Simon Taufel’s not out decision was overturned on review, with replays showing the ball would have struck middle stump.
Zaheer could not be kept out of the limelight for long and a superb slower ball totally deceived Chamara Kapugadera, who could only prod the ball tamely to Suresh Raina at mid-off.
At 183-5 going into the last 10 overs, India were well on top but with Jayawardene still at the crease there was every chance of Sri Lanka posting a competitive total.
With Kulasekara (32 off 30 balls) scoring quickly at the other end, the former skipper began to take calculated risks, accelerating through the 80s and 90s and bringing up his hundred off 84 balls during the batting powerplay with consecutive boundaries off Zaheer.
Kulasekara’s run out brought Perera to the crease with two overs remaining, and the all-rounder did exactly what was needed, swinging from the hip to smash 22 off nine deliveries, including 16 off the last four balls of the innings.
But although the late flurry propelled Sri Lanka to a competitive total, Gambhir and Dhoni ensured it was India who joined Australia and the West Indies as the only sides to win the World Cup more than once.

 

Courtesy of bbc.co.uk

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