Gambhir crushes life out of Sri Lanka

Published: Friday, February 6, 2009, 10:30 [IST]
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Gambhir powers India to victory

Colombo: Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan completed a record bowling double before India posted an emphatic 67-run win in the fourth one-day international here on Thursday.

The victory was set up by left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir, who smashed a career-best 150 off 147 balls to help his side score a challenging 332-5. He hit one six and 14 fours in his sixth hundred in one-dayers.

Sri Lanka never seriously threatened India's total and were bowled out for 265 in the day-night match, which was held up for nearly 20 minutes after Indian fielder Pragyan Ojha was hit by an object thrown from the stands.

The hosts got off to a blazing start when Tillakaratne Dilshan (38) and Sanath Jayasuriya (27) added 55 for the opening wicket off just 7.2 overs, but the run-rate declined after their dismissals.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara top-scored with 56 for his second successive half-century, while Nuwan Kulasekara (39 not out), skipper Mahela Jayawardene (28) and Farveez Maharoof (28) were the other main run-getters.

India, who now lead 4-0 in the five-match series, also improved upon their record of eight successive one-day wins. They had beaten England 5-0 at home last year.

"I'm happy about the ninth win," said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"We are enjoying our success. I have not batted at number three for a long time and was looking to do that today as the series had already been decided."

Off-spin genius Muralitharan, the world's leading bowler in Test cricket, became the highest wicket-taker in one-dayers when he dismissed Gambhir for his 503rd victim.

The 36-year-old Sri Lankan surpassed former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram's one-day record when he had the opener caught by Sangakkara in his 10th and last over. He also holds the world record in Tests with 769 wickets.

Muralitharan dedicated the record to his family, saying they had stood by him through "good and bad times".

"I am happy to have achieved the record. It is also a great achievement for a small cricket nation like Sri Lanka to hold two bowling records."

Gambhir and Dhoni (94) earlier dominated the Sri Lankan attack with a wide range of attacking shots, adding 188 for the second wicket after the third-over dismissal of in-form Virender Sehwag (five).

Sri Lanka then had to wait for more than 30 overs for their next success as Gambhir and Dhoni made the most of a mediocre attack on a slow pitch. The hosts' fielding also left a lot to be desired under pressure.

Gambhir was the first to reach his half-century, hoisting seamer Angelo Mathews over long-on for a six. Dhoni also completed his fifty in style, swinging Muralitharan over mid-wicket for a six.

Dhoni, who promoted himself in the batting order, fell six short of his fifth hundred in one-dayers when he mistimed a shot off left-arm spinner Sanath Jayasuriya, with Dilhara Fernando taking a one-handed catch at point.

The Indian skipper hit two sixes and four boundaries in his 96-ball knock.

Paceman Nuwan Kulasekara then bowled Yuvraj Singh for five and Yusuf Pathan for no score off successive deliveries to emerge the most successful bowler with 3-63.

There was no stopping Gambhir, who reached his century with a lofted four over covers off Kulasekara. He hit one six and 14 fours before being the fifth man out.

Gambhir added 103 for the fifth wicket with Suresh Raina, who remained unbeaten with a 37-ball 49.

"A target of 333 was always going to be tough," said Jayawardene.

"We failed to strike a right balance in the middle overs. Unfortunately, we did not get to bowl under lights, but the Indian spinners bowled really well.

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