PORT OF SPAIN:
India captain MS Dhoni dragged his side to a pulsating one-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the final of the Tri-nation Series at Queen’s Park Oval.
Returning to the team after seeming to be ruled out from the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury eleven days ago, Dhoni smashed 16 runs off three deliveries in the final over, bowled by Shaminda Eranga, to take the tournament favourites to 203 for nine in reply to Sri Lanka’s 201 all out off 48.5 overs.
Less than three weeks after lifting the Champions Trophy, Dhoni held the innings together with an unbeaten 45, carting the hapless Eranga for a six, a four and then a six off successive deliveries.
“I thought I could target the bowler in that last over because he’s not as experienced as some of the others,” said Dhoni. “I didn’t want to take chances against someone like a [Lasith] Malinga or an [Angelo] Mathews. I’m just blessed with good cricketing sense.”
Last-man Ishant Sharma was only required to survive at the other end and managed to achieve just that, although there were a few anxious moments between his arrival at the crease at 182 for nine and when the captain took responsibility to win the match on his own in the final over.
India were actually cruising along at 139 for three in the 32nd over in the best weather of the tournament.
But the dismissal of Suresh Raina triggered a collapse which saw four wickets falling for 13 runs, with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath turning the screws with two wickets in two balls to finish with career-best figures of four for 20. Opening batsman Rohit Sharma’s top score of 58 was overshadowed by Dhoni’s heroics.
Sri Lanka endured an even more calamitous collapse after they were put in at the start of the day, losing their last eight wickets for 30 runs after at one stage being promisingly poised at 171 for two in the 38th over.
A 122-run second-wicket partnership between Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Lahiru Thirimanne (46) placed their side in that excellent position.
However, a succession of injudicious shots saw batsman after batsman gifting his wicket away.
“We kept taking wrong options because if we had batted properly we would have gotten 230-240,” said a rueful Sri Lanka captain Mathews in reflecting on another opportunity for silverware lost. “I’m proud of the boys with how we fought in defence of a small total though.”
Dhoni marshalled his forces superbly while effecting three stumpings and playing his part in strangling the opposition when they would have been expected to be racing towards a formidable total.
Mathews suspended for slow over-rate
The captain received a two-match suspension while his players were fined 40% of their match fees for slow over-rate during the final. Match referee David Boon imposed the suspension after Sri Lanka fell three overs short of their target at the end of the match. Mathews pleaded guilty and accepted the sanction.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.
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