Birmingham: Ashish Nehra led the India attack as Sri Lanka was bowled out for a lowly 187 in its triangular series One-day International at Edgbaston on Saturday. It left the Sri Lankans with an uphill task of winning the match and keeping their hopes alive of making the final at Lord's on July 13. Left-arm quick Nehra's superb analysis of 10-2-28-2 saw him put the brake on Sri Lanka's innings right from the start.
After India captain Saurav Ganguly won the toss, on a pitch with some moisture in it, Nehra's opening seven overs cost just 10 runs. Sri Lanka failed to bat out its 50 overs, a cardinal sin in One-day games, the innings ending with 10 balls remaining, Dilhara Fernando two not out. Marvan Atapattu (50) and Mahela Jayawardene (36) were the top scorers, both men dismissed in quick succession by leg spinner Anil Kumble. Later Chaminda Vaas' 20- ball 26 took the Lankans to within sight of 200.
Beaten in its previous three matches, Sri Lanka has to win here to maintain its hopes of making the series final. But its chances were hanging by a thread when, having been 125 for two, it lost its last eight wickets for 62 runs. Nehra, who had Sanath Jayasuriya dropped by Dinesh Mongia at second slip on 18, eventually dismissed Sri Lanka's captain for 22 when the left-hander trying to cut, chopped the ball on to his stumps. Then, for the second time in the series, third seamer Ajit Agarkar took a wicket with his first ball. And once again Romesh Kaluwitharana (eight) was the man out in a near replica of his dismissal at The Oval.
Sri Lanka's wicket-keeper drove loosely outside off-stump and opposing keeper Rahul Dravid took the easy catch, Sri Lanka 41 for two in the 12th over. Jayawardene helped Atapattu get the innings back on an even keel, the pair putting on 84 for the third wicket. But, looking to accelerate, Jayawardene holed out to long-off against Kumble, Sri Lanka 125 for three in the 31st over. And four runs later Kumble struck again.
Atapattu had just reached his fifty but was deceived by a well-flighted googly that went through the gap between bat and pad before clipping off stump. Atapattu faced 73 balls including five fours. More importantly, Kumble had taken two for two in nine balls and Sri Lanka were struggling at 129 for four with a pair of fresh batsmen at the crease. And, until Vaas arrived to blast four boundaries, none of the others could disturb the bowlers' length.
Sri Lanka made two changes from the side beaten by three wickets against England at Headingley on Tuesday. All-rounder Thilan Samaraweera replaced Kumar Sangakkara and Pramodya Wickramasinghe was preferred to fellow seamer Nuwan Zoysa. India, for whom victory here would guarantee a final berth, stuck with the same side that has served them well throughout the series. It tops the table with two wins from its three matches - the other one was a no result after the Riverside match with England was rained off on Thursday.