Sharjah: Sri Lanka romped home victors by 68 runs on Friday at the Sharjah Cricket Ground. There were many performers to Sri Lanka's stupendous effort. To begin with there was a top-notch knock of 128 by Mahela Jayawardena along with an equally significant 102 by Atapattu but the one that takes the bow was a world record feat of seven for thirty by none other than the spinning wizard Muthiah Muralitharan. Well, it was known, to start with, that 295 was a very big ask. But given India's batting strength (on paper) it was never out of the realm of the possible. However there was one man India had to contend with, if at all they did make a dash at victory, and they failed to contend.
Yes, Muthiah Muralitharan wrecked havoc when it seemed like India just might pull off an improbable win with Sachin in a very aggressive mood. Sachin has done it before and he in the company of Robin Singh looked like repeating the feat he had achieved against Australia but Murali thought otherwise. He dismissed both Robin and Tendulkar to apply the breaks and later sent Yuvraj Singh and Kambli on their way back to reduce India to six for 129.Although Badani and Dahiya strung a 77-run partnership it was too late in the day and the writing was more or less on the wall.If India had any chance then Ganguly along with Tendulkar had to do the bulk of scoring but no sooner had the match begun Ganguly was wiped out of the equation; departing in the very first over to Vaas. Sriram once again fell to the pull, to reduce India to 24 for two.
But Sachin and Robin then kept India's hope abreast with a 75-run partnership; achieved at a brisk rate. However the introduction of Muralitharan changed the course of the game. Earlier it seemed like the lions were let loose at the Sharjah Cricket Ground tearing apart everything in sight! Sri Lanka went on a rampage to set India an intimidating 295 for victory. The pillars on which the Sri Lanka built their colossal target were two marvellous centuries off the blades of Mahela Jayawardena and Marvan Atapattu. India paid a heavy price for going in with only three front line bowlers in Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Sunil Joshi for India stared off very well dismissing both the openers cheaply. In fact, even after their departure they held fort till the 18th over where Sri Lanka were averaging just above three.
But from there on in, it was the indomitable lions all the way.Jayawardena (128 of 122 balls) in the company of Atapattu (102 not out) got stuck into the Indian attack, comprising of just about all the ten. Barring Kambli and Badani everybody else had a bowl. It was a combination of scintillating batting coupled with some mediocre bowling in the middle overs that propelled Sri Lanka to 294 for 5 in 50 overs. Jayawardena was simply irresistible with his stroke play, while Atapattu was as solid as he gets.
Both milked the bowlers around at will as the Indians were reduced to being mere spectators.After being reduced to 25 for two, the Lankans dealt a hefty counter blow that knocked the stuffing out of the Indians, for even Zaheer Khan who has made a name for his niggardly bowling at the death was toyed around with on his return. The third wicket partnership yielded a record 226 runs for the Sri Lankans. After Jayawardena's departure Arnold played a sweet innings of 28 complied of just 21 deliveries to give the finishing touches.Sri Lanka now go into the final to be played on Sunday with theirs tails up.
Man of the Match: Muthiah Muralitharan