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Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo: Yuvraj Singh slammed a career-best 98 not out to set up a crucial 46-run victory for India over Sri Lanka in the triangular One-day cricket series on Wednesday.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Sri Lanka, chasing 228 off its allotted 50 overs, was all out for 181 to suffer its second defeat in six matches. But the host nation has already made it to the August 5 final with eight points and will meet the winners of Thursday's decider between India and New Zealand, which has four points each from five games. Singh, whose previous best was 84 against Australia at Nairobi last year, helped India recover from 38 for four in a match it needed to win to sustain its hopes of reaching the final. The target appeared stiff for Sri Lanka after the fall of three wickets, including that of skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, for a paltry 24.Left-arm fast bowler Ashish Nehra got the prize wicket when he had in-form Jayasuriya caught by Rahul Dravid, who dived to his right to hold a low catch on the second attempt at mid-wicket.Mahela Jayawardene notched a defiant 34 off 78 balls, but scored too slowly to put his side in a comfortable position. Skipper Saurav Ganguly (two for 31) and off spinner Harbhajan Singh (one for 31) bowled tightly in the middle overs, while Nehra (three for 35) and fellow-seamer Zaheer Khan (two for 24) struck in the opening and closing overs to complete the job.The closing-overs slog by Suresh Perera (30) and Chaminda Vaas (13 off 11 balls) came too late to pose a serious threat to India. India hardly missed the left-arm spin of Yuvraj Singh, who suffered cramps in the last over of his team's innings. He needed a four off the last ball to complete his maiden century, but could manage only two runs. Yuvraj Singh put on 102 for the fifth wicket with Dravid (47) after Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers Vaas and Dilhara Fernando had shared four wickets in lively opening spells.He then added 57 for the sixth wicket with Reetinder Sodhi (30) as India scored 70 from its last 10 overs. Yuvraj Singh curbed his attacking instincts to steady the innings with Dravid. His first big shot came in the 45th over when he lofted Vaas over long-on for the only six in his 110-ball knock, which also contained six fours. Yuvraj and Dravid, cautious against the accuracy of Muthiah Muralitharan, found spinners Jayasuriya, Russel Arnold and Kumar Dharmasena easier to score off. They kept working the ball into gaps for singles and twos to considerably ease the pressure on India. Off spinner Muralitharan proved the tightest Sri Lankan bowler, finishing with two for 29 off 10 overs.The top-order Indian batsmen were in all sorts of trouble after Sri Lanka had won the toss in overcast conditions and elected to field. Vaas struck with the first ball of the match when he trapped Virender Sehwag lbw with one that cut in sharply.Fernando then made life uncomfortable for Ganguly, beating the bat a couple of times in his opening over. When Ganguly was caught at point attempting to cut Vaas, India had not scored a run off the bat. The first seven runs in five overs contained four no balls, two wides and one leg bye. In all, Sri Lanka conceded 30 extras. The first scoring shot came only in the sixth over when Venkat Sai Laxman steered Fernando for a single. With runs hard to come by in the initial overs, the pressure mounted on the Indians before Yuvraj Singh's confident arrival at the crease.

Copyright AFP 2001

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