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India made a good start to their defence of the Asia Cup by register a 50-run win against an in-form Sri Lankan side in Mirpur today. Batting first, India posted a competitive 304/3 in their 50 overs riding on the back of a 205 run partnership for the second wicket between the Delhi duo of Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, both of whom made centuries. Useful cameos from MS Dhoni (46*) and Suresh Raina (30*) pushed the Indian total past the 300 run mark. Sri Lanka looked on course to overhaul the target at the half-way stage of their innings, as contrasting fifties from Mahela Jayawardene (78) and Kumar Sangakkara (65) putting them in the driver's seat at 150/2 in 25 overs. But, the last quarter of the game belonged to the Indians as they took 8 wickets for 104 runs in 20 overs to wrestle the game away from the Lankans. R Ashwin was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 3-39, while Irfan Pathan (4-32) and Vinay Kumar (3-55) chipped in with the rest of the wickets with some intelligent changes of pace.
Sri Lanka won the toss in game 2 of the Asia Cup and invited India to bat first. The big news in this game was the absence of superstar Lasith Malinga from the Lankan line-up with Suranga Lakmal coming in for the Slinga. Rangana Herath opted out of this series, and leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna was given an opportunity to stake a claim for a permanent berth. Angelo Mathews was still not fit enough to reclaim his place in the side and neither was Thisara Perera, so Farvez Maharoof was the sole allrounder with Tillakaratne Dilshan expected to share some of the bowling burden.
India meanwhile stuck to a largely predictable line-up with Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir opening the batting with Rohit Sharma returning to the playing eleven at the expense of the 'rested' Virender Sehwag. There were no other changes to the Indian team with Rahul Sharma continuing to miss out despite the spinner friendly conditions while Ravindra Jadeja and Irfan Pathan were picked as the two allrounders while Yusuf Pathan sat out. The two Kumas - Praveen and Vinay - were picked as the two frontline seamers.
India made a poor start to the game losing Tendulkar in the 6th over with Lankan skipper Jayawardene taking an excellent low catch at short cover to send the veteran batsman back to the pavilion with just 6 (19b) to his name. Lakmal was the bowler who made the breakthrough, though the delivery which got the wicket was hardly anything to write home about, a high full toss which was asking to be hit getting the job done. Despite Sachin's departure, India posted a decent 43/1 in the mandatory powerplay with both Gambhir and Virat Kohli scoring at just under a run a ball.
The Delhi duo continued to pick up the singles on offer as the field spread and didn't really chase the play much in the bowling powerplay either after Gambhir got a life when Chandimal dropped a dipping chance in the deep when the batsman was on 37. Both Gambhir and Kohli brought up their respective half-centuries as India built a strong foundation for the power players to exploit later in the innings. The key though lay with getting the timing of their acceleration right as the track looked good for plenty of runs and would only get flatter as the game progressed. At the 30-over mark, India had made their way to 142/1 with Gambhir unbeaten on 76 with Kohli batting with 56 to his name.
India accelerated between the 30th and 40th overs with the batting powerplay towards the end of that period contributing 34 as the two Delhi lads starting getting a move on. The Indian 200 was reached in the 39th over and both batsmen soon brought up their centuries.too. However, just when India really needed the two set batsmen to push on, they fell a ball apart with Gambhir making an even 100 (118b) while Kohli made 108 (120b). Both men fell to the guile of Farvez Maharoof with a quicker delivery getting Gambhir caught at long-on while a slower one caught out Kohli.
India's middle order marauders MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina were left with the responsibility of getting their side to a competitive score and they quickly showed that there were no demons in the pitch with the former making 46 from 26 balls and Raina matching his skipper with a 17-ball 30 to carry India to 304/3. Despite getting past the 300 run mark, India could well find themselves 20-30 runs short with Sri Lanka's long batting line-up more than capable of chasing down the target on a good wicket.
Sri Lanka made the perfect start to their chase with Mahela Jayawardene taking Praveen Kumar to the cleaners in his opening spell. Praveen conceded 29 runs from 3 overs before skipper MS Dhoni replaced his new ball bowler, but Sri Lanka were already off to a flyer. The Lankans made 65 in the mandatory powerplay for the loss of Tillakaratne Dilshan, who fell for 6, giving Virat Kohli an easy catch at midwicket trying to smash a rank long-hop from Irfan Pathan.
Despite Sri Lanka racing to their 100 in just the 15th over, MS Dhoni opted for the bowling powerplay as soon as it became available. That 5-over period stemmed the tide and also brought India the vital wicket of Jayawardene for 79 (58b), who was threatening to take the game away from India. Irfan Pathan got the breakthrough once again with the Lankan skipper's attempt to play the ball down to third man leading to his downfall with Dhoni taking a good low catch. India conceded just 23 runs in the powerplay and had sneaked back into the game as the Lankans moved on to a near perfect 150/2 at the half-way stage of the innings.
India got a lifeline in the very next over with Ravichandran Ashwin taking the wicket of the very much in-form Dinesh Chandimal for 13, disturbing the batsman's furniture with a carrom-ball. India did well to squeeze the flow of runs after Chandimal's dismissal, with Praveen Kumar sneaking in a few good overs after his torrid opening spell. Ashwin then brought India right back into the contest by landing a massive double blow, removing both Kumar Sangakkara (65) and Lahiru Thirimanne (29) in the same over to leave Sri Lanka in a spot of bother at 198/5. Sangakkara picked out Ravindra Jadeja in the deep with his attempted slog sweep on the first ball of the batting powerplay while Thirimanne missed his attempted sweep and was trapped in front of the stumps.
The powerplay continued to swing India's way with Vinay Kumar taking wickets of consecutive deliveries to reduce Sri Lanka to 216/7. Nuwan Kulasekara, who was bumped up the order to push the scoring rate along fell to Kumar's slower delivery, bowled for 11, while his replacement Chamara Kapugedera fell to a terrific catch from Kohli for a golden duck. Farvez Maharoof survived the hat-trick ball, and started putting together a partnership with Upul Tharanga (17) before the latter became Irfan Pathan's third victim, bowled off the inside edge.
Maharoof attempted to slog his way out of a tight situation, but fell to Vinay Kumar with the bat turning in his hands as he tried to deposit a low full toss over cover. Pathan came back in the next over to dismiss Prasanna as Sri Lanka fell 50 runs shy of India's score, being bowled out for 254 in 45.1 overs.
It was a good win for India with their top order with the exception of Tendulkar finding form and the bowlers putting in a creditable performance on a tough pitch. They may, however, want to revisit their playing eleven for the game against Bangladesh on Friday, especially on these tracks where they can probably afford to go in with 5 specialist bowlers. Sri Lanka meanwhile will need to bounce back in their next game against Pakistan on Thursday or risk going out of the tournament prematurely.
India: G Gambhir, SR Tendulkar, V Kohli, RG Sharma, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), RA Jadeja, IK Pathan, R Ashwin, P Kumar, R Vinay Kumar
Sri Lanka: TM Dilshan, DPMD Jayawardene (c), KC Sangakkara (wk), LD Chandimal, WU Tharanga, CK Kapugedera, HDRL Thirimanne, MF Maharoof, KMDN Kulasekara, RAS Lakmal, S Prasanna
India 304/3 (50 overs, 6.08 rpo)
G Gambhir 100 (118) F Maharoof 2-57
V Kohli 108 (120) S Lakmal 1-67
Sri Lanka 254 all out (45.1 overs, 5.62 rpo)
M Jayawardene 78 (59) I Pathan 4-32
K Sangakkara 65 (87) R Ashwin 3-39
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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