Perera cripples Indian middle-order
Thisara Perera produced a devastating spell of seam bowling to scalp five wickets as India were bundled out for a paltry 103 in a crucial cricket tri-series match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla on Sunday.
Later, the Lankans overhauled the total with utmost ease, to cement their place in the tri-series final.
The 21-year-old Perera (5/28) ripped through the Indian middle order with a fine exhibition of swing bowling while the other pacers, Lasith Malinga (2/21) and Nuwan Kulasekara (2/31), also chipped in to stifle the Indians.
Only Yuvraj Singh provided a semblance of resistance with a gritty 38, as the Indian batsmen succumbed in just 33.4 overs on what appeared a spongy two-paced track at the Rangiri Dambulla International stadium.
After the furore over the no-ball incident in the past few days, the Sri Lankans were charged up in the must-win game and Dhoni's decision to bat first after winning the toss completely backfired.
Image: Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera shows the ball as he leaves the field after taking five wickets against India on Sunday
India failed to recover from a poor start
It was a shocking capitulation by the visitors who simply had no clue how to handle the Lankan speedsters, who generated a fair amount of pace.
Electing to bat, 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 Nuwan 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.
Sehwag was rapped on the pads to Kulasekara's sharp inswinger and umpire Kumar Dharmasena had no hesitation in giving him out leg before wicket. The Indian opener was not too happy with the decision as he walked back to the pavilion.
Dinesh Karthik, who has struggled to find form right through the series, was the next to be dismissed, 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 is also struggling to find form, could not hang around for long, as Angelo Mathews plotted his dismissal with a gem of an inswinger that trapped the batsman plumb in front of the wicket.
Image: Sri Lanka's captain Kumar Sangakkara (right) celebrates after taking a catch to dismiss India's Dinesh Karthik
Yuvraj tried to wage a lone war
Soon Suresh Raina joined him in the pavilion, falling 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, dismissing 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 with the next ball, 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 mark.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
Malinga, Kulasekara gave Perera fine support
Lasith Malinga, who replaced Mathews for his second spell in the 26th over, then held centrestage and got his first wicket, claiming Ashish Nehra (2). Nehra gloved a bouncer and Sangakkara did the rest. India 80-8 after 26.2.
He struck again in his next over, his eighth, trapping Yuvraj leg before. The left-hander tried to hit over the square leg mid-wicket, missed and was hit on the backfoot.The ball looked like missing off but umpire Rauf thought otherwise and Yuvraj was out after scoring 38 from 64 balls, which included five boundaries and a six. India 99-9.
Perera completed the rout, bowling Ishant Sharma for 3 off 24 balls. He finished with figures of 7.4-1-28-5 after a fine exhibition of swing bowling.
Malinga claimed two for 21 runs while Kulasekara had two for 31.
Image: Lasith Malinga
Openers lead Lanka to easy victory
Needed just 104 for victory, the Lankans raced to the target in just 15.1 overs to gain a bonus point and become the first team to move book a berth in the final.
Tillakaratne Dishan (35) and Mahela Jayawardene (33) toyed with the Indian baowlers as they plundered runs at will to set up the chase brilliantly.
Paceman Ishant Sharma dismissed both openers - Dilshan and Jayawardene - in two consecutive deliveries but it was too little too late as the islanders reched target with 209 balls to spare. India's biggest defeat in terms of balls remaining was 174 against Australia.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni congratulates Kumar Sangakkara after Sri Lanka's win on Sunday