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Dhoni guides India to victory
August 24, 2008 19:32 IST
Last Updated: August 24, 2008 22:58 IST
India made a mess of a good start but just about scraped through to a 33-run victory over Sri Lanka [Images] in the third One-Day International in Colombo on Sunday.
The victory gave the visitors a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
After putting up 237, India had the Lankans on the mat, reducing them to 94 for seven at one stage. But they dropped as many as four catches and put themselves in an embarrassing situation in the day-night affair, as Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene [Images] raked up a sensational 94-run knock that brought his team close to an incredible victory before the innings folded for 204 in 49 overs.
The sloppy fielding allowed Jayawardene (dropped once) and Thilan Thushara (dropped twice) to put together an 81-run stand, raising hopes of a Lankan win at Premadasa stadium. But strike bowler Zaheer Khan [Images] came to India's rescue, dismissing Thushara (30) with a Yorker.
The tension though was yet to evaporate as Jaywardene was still at the wicket. However, he departed when he chipped one off Munaf Patel [Images] and Praveen Kumar this time made no mistake in holding on to the chance.
Jayawardene missed out on a well-deserved century, but succeeded in teaching the Indian team a few cricketing lessons.
Early during the Lankan chase Khan and Praveen Kumar produced a devastating spell of seam bowling to put India on the victory path. Kumar (2-62) and Khan (3-23) put India in command after their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] led from front with a 76-run knock to help India put up a fighting total after electing to bat.Dhoni played a captain's knock of 76 runs to rescue India from a mid-innings collapse.
The top-order struggled to get among the runs, but thanks to Dhoni's crucial partnerships with Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, India were able to get past the 200-run mark after electing to bat.
India though handled their new nemesis Ajantha Mendis [Images] (3/56) well and scored runs off the mystery bowler comfortably, but for his last two overs, when he almost got a hat-trick.
Dhoni, en route to his 23rd one-day half-century, shared a 54-run stand with Raina (53) for the fifth wicket and then weaved a crucial 67-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Sharma (32).
The skipper batted smartly for his 76 and perished in the slog overs but not before hitting eight boundaries in his 80-ball knock.
The left-handed diminutive Raina also batted sensibly for his 80-ball 53 and kept the scoreboard ticking when wickets were tumbling at the other end.
A terrible mix up between Dhoni and Raina ended their partnership which also exposed India's lower order.
But Raina's well crafted half-century together with Dhoni's sensible batting had lifted India from a precarious 91 for four.
Raina's fall, with 15 overs to go, left Dhoni with a tough job of putting up a fighting total on the board along with Rohit Sharma.
After initial caution, Sharma was in his elements and supported his skipper well.
Dhoni lofted Muttiah Muralitaharan for a straight drive and then played a superb cut-shot for consecutive boundaries after getting to his 50.
Sharma joined the party, hitting Mendis for a confident boundary over extra cover, indicating what was in store for the Lankan bowlers as Indian innings approached the final five overs.
Both the batsmen pushed the accelerator button and in the process Sharma fell to left-arm pacer Thilan Thushara after mis-timing a shot which landed in the hands of Chamara Kapugedara at mid-off.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh [Images] joined Dhoni in the middle but could not last long and was dismissed by Mendis while trying to go for a big shot.
Dhoni made his walk back on the next ball when a low cover drive was caught by Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene, putting Mendis on a hat-trick.
The Army spinner almost got the hat-trick as Zaheer Khan, received by the spin sensation, struggled to put his foot on round but just managed it and was ruled not out by the third umpire.
Earlier, opener Gambhir (8) who missed the second ODI with a stiff neck, could not make an impact, falling cheaply when he was trapped by Nuwan Kulasekara [Images].
Yuvraj Singh [Images] also continued to struggle for form and soon joined Gambhir in the pavilion.
The Punjab southpaw hit a six soon after arriving at the pitch but could not carry forward a confident start.
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