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Dhoni, Gambhir star as India bring the World Cup back

By Bikash Mohapatra in Mumbai
Last updated on: April 03, 2011 03:00 IST
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A masterful, unbeaten 91 by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni helped India score a comprehensive six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the final of the ICC World Cup at the Wankhede stadium on Saturday.

It is India's second world title, coming 28 years after Kapil's Devils scored that famous, albeit unexpected, win in England, and exorcised the ghosts of the Caribbean debacle in 2007.

- Scorecard: India vs Sri Lanka | Images from the final

It also made up for the disappointment of having come up second best to the all-conquering Australian side in the 2003 final.

It was a nervy chase, what with the home side batting under the lights.

Gambhir scored a valuable 97.

M S DhoniHowever, it was Dhoni who was the star of the show. The man who led India to the inaugural World T20 title in 2007 was at his imaginative best again.

His move to include S Sreesanth instead of R Ashwin may have backfired earlier in the day. However, by promoting himself up the order (at No 5) he proved what an astute captain he is.

Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, both southpaws, were slated to bat ahead of the captain. But, the latter, realizing the visitors have three off-spinners in their ranks came in at the fall of Virat Kohli's wicket.

The decision proved to be a masterstroke. Suffice to say, it changed the course of the match.

Dhoni's 79-ball knock was inclusive of eight hits to the fence and two over it. No points for guessing -- he was named the man-of-the-match for his spectacular effort.

It was a captain leading from the front on the day it mattered the most, India cruising home with 10 balls to spare.

And, yes, Sachin Tendulkar is now a World champion as well, to go along with all his records.

Earlier, a resilient innings (103 not out) by the ever-dependable Mahela Jayawardene helped Sri Lanka to a formidable 274 for six.

It was the 33-year-old's 14th One-Day International hundred, his third in the World Cup and his second against India, following his 128 at Sharjah way back in October 2000.

The former captain's 88-ball knock was inclusive of 13 hits to the fence.

It was an innings of a lifetime, to say the least. The visitors accumulated a whopping 63 runs, with Thisara Perera (22 not out) using the long handle to a good effect towards the fag end. For the record, 91 runs came off the final 10 overs.

So murderous were the Sri Lankan batsmen towards the end that India's best bowler for the day finished with figures of two for 60, having conceded just 25 runs off his first eight overs.

However, their bowlers failed them. It was a second successive final defeat for Sri Lanka after their loss to Australia four years back.

Adam Gilchrist had taken the match away from them in the Caribbean then. Another wicketkeeper-batsman, M S Dhoni, did so on this occasion.

Sri Lanka innings

Sri Lanka got off to a tepid start after electing to bat.

Zaheer Khan and the back-gain S Sreesanth bowled a tight line early on to restrict the opposition to just nine runs in the opening five overs.

Tillekeratne Dilshan (33) eased Sri Lankan worries by hitting Sree over midwicket for the first boundary of the innings, off the first ball of the sixth over.

Two balls later, he hit it to the backward point boundary.

Mahela JayawardeneHowever, as the Sri Lankan fans were beginning to celebrate, their joy was cut short by Zaheer, the bowler having Upul Tharanga (2) caught by Virender Sehwag at first slip.

The wicket was reward for Zaheer's persistence – he did not concede a run off his first 18 balls (3 overs) before bagging a wicket with his 19th delivery.

The left-armer's opening spell made for an impressive reading: 5-3-6-1.

Sri Lanka managed just 17 runs for the opening wicket, but Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara did put on 43 runs for the second.

The captain, in particular, was impressive, hitting some sweetly-timed boundaries off Sreesanth, who, after beginning well, returned to his wayward (read expensive) ways.

However, just when Sri Lanka seemed to be regaining ground, Harbhajan struck.

Dilshan, getting impatient for no apparent reason, mistimed a sweep and dragged the ball onto his stumps.

The 34-year-old's 49-ball 33 was enough though to ensure he became the fifth player to score 500 or more runs in a World Cup -- after Sachin Tendulkar (twice), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene.

In came the experienced Mahela Jayawardene and he combined extremely well with his captain to frustrate the Indian bowlers to a great extent.

The third-wicket partnership yielded 62 runs, but the home team struck again when things looked to be going out of hand.

Yuvraj Singh got the breakthrough, having Sangakkara caught behind for his 14th wicket of the tournament.

The Sri Lankan captain's 67-ball 48 was inclusive of five hits to the fence. Unfortunately for his team, though, he failed to capitalise on a good start.

In came Thilan Samaraweera (21) and he combined well with Jayawardene to ensure Sanga's wicket didn't prove costly for the visitors.

Jayawardene and Samaraweera slowly but steadily put together a 57-run partnership for the fourth wicket to frustrate the Indians. In the process, the former got his 57th ODI fifty.

So desperate did Dhoni become during the partnership that in a bid to get that elusive breakthrough he asked Sachin Tendulkar (2-0-12-0) and Virat Kohli (1-0-6-0) to bowl, palpably to no avail.

The breakthrough did come though, through Yuvraj.

Bowling his ninth over, the left-arm spinner rapped Samaraweera on the pads and asked the question, convinced he had got his man.

Umpire Simon Taufel was unimpressed though. And, after some deliberation, Team India sought the referral.

The home team's stand was vindicated and Yuvi got his second wicket -- his 15th of the tournament.

In the next over (40th) Zaheer had Chamara Kapugedera (1) caught by Raina at short extra cover.

If he was impressive in his opening spell, Zaheer did his job in his second (2-0-10-1) as well.

After 40 overs, Sri Lanka was in a spot of bother at 183 for five. But Jayawardene was still batting. He and Nuwan Kulasekara (34) put together an important 66-run partnership for the sixth wicket to ensure India had a tough job at hand when it came out to bat. 

India innings:

Chasing a formidable target, the co-hosts got off to a worst possible start. Lasith Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag (0) leg before in the second ball.

On Sachin Tendulkar's suggestion, Sehwag hesitantly asked for a referral. It was not to be. The batsman who had top-scored for India in the 2003 final was dismissed without scoring on this occasion.

All eyes were then fixed on home hero Tendulkar, with the capacity crowd crowd expecting the Master Blaster score that eagerly anticipated 100th international hundred.

However, Tendulkar, after a couple of trademark boundaries off Kulasekara, flattered to deceive again at the big stage.

The Master Blaster became Malinga's second wicket of the evening, getting caught behind. He managed only 18.

In came Virat Kohli (35), and he combined well with Gautam Gambhir, the duo putting on a valuable 83 runs (off just 93 balls) for the third wicket.

In the process, Gambhir achieved two personal landmarks.

The left-hander from Delhi, when on 24, became the 11th Indian batsman to surpass 4, 000 ODI runs and went on to register his 25th ODI fifty, his sixth of the World Cup.

However, just when the partnership looked threatening Dilshan took a spectacular return catch to send Kohli back to the pavilion.

Dhoni, not in very good batting form during the tournament, promoted himself up the order on this occasion, ahead of the two left-handers (Yuvraj and Raina).

It proved to be a good move, especially considering the fact that Sri Lanka had three off-spinners in their ranks.

India's captain and Gambhir put together a crucial 109-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

During the course of the partnership Dhoni, when on 42, surpassed 6,000 ODI runs. He is the seventh Indian to achieve the feat.

And soon after he also scored his 38th ODI fifty, his first of the World Cup.

It was the 29-year-old's 14th fifty against Sri Lanka and ended a run of 14 innings sans a significant score -- his last major contribution was 67 at Dambulla last August againt (who else?).

However, just when things seemed in India's control, a momentary lapse of concentration cost Gambhir his wicket.

The left-hander's sudden rush of blood only helped Perera rattle his stumps, Gambhir falling three short of a well-deserved hundred.

His 122-ball knock was inclusive of nine hits to the fence.

In came the player-of-the-tournament Yuvraj Singh and he and his captain put together an unbeaten 54 runs (off just seven overs) for the fifth wicket to seal the issue for India, Dhoni finishing in style by smashing Kulasekara over long-on for a maximum.

The captain ensured India won that elusive world title. 

Photographs: Getty Images

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Bikash Mohapatra in Mumbai

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