From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.07 :: Feb. 14, 2009

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CRICKET / FOURTH ODI

A record 9 for India

Led by Gautham Gambhir’s positive strokeplay, India set Sri Lanka a stiff target that the host could not chase. This victory was an unprecedented ninth on the trot for India in one-day Internationals. S. Dinakar reports.

PICS: AP

Gautam Gambhir batted almost right through the innings for a brilliant 150.

Batting is a lot about confidence and Gautam Gambhir — Mark II — is riding on this attribute. The runs are flowing from the opener’s willow even as he enjoys an extended period under the sunshine. India’s most improved batsman of 2008 wants to carry the momentum into 2009. Belief is a wonderful thing.

Nothing, however, comes without hard work and Gambhir’s journey to success is the direct consequence of an improved technique. He now plays closer to the body, has tightened his game around the off-stump. Improved methods have meant the left-hander has found the right mix of flair and solidity. His shot selection has improved, so has his reading of the situation.

Gambhir’s batsmanship was in sharp focus in the fourth ODI of the Wealthsurance series at the Premadasa Stadium. His 150 (147b, 14x4, 1x6) was as much about discipline as commitment and glorious stroke-play.

The precision in his footwork is admirable. So is the accuracy with which he drills the ball through the gaps. The left-hander can play straight with a high right elbow. He can also essay strokes square off the wicket on either side with his supple wrists.

Before he became Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record 503rd ODI victim, Gambhir played a pivotal role in India reaching a daunting 332 for five in 50 overs.

The target proved too stiff for Sri Lanka under the lights; India won the duel by 67 runs. It was the ninth successive ODI win for the team, the longest sequence of wins for any Indian side in this form of the game.

The Indian innings was built around two influential partnerships — 188 for the second wicket between Gambhir and skipper Dhoni (94, 96b, 4x4, 2x6) and 103 for the fifth between Gambhir and a strokeful Suresh Raina (49, 37b, 4x4, 1x6).

Gambhir batted almost right through the innings. He stroked the ball to all corners of the park, ran hard and rotated the strike. India required such an innings after losing two early wickets.

Gambhir, typically, unsettled the pacemen by walking down the track. He has, with sparkling footwork, the uncanny knack of shortening the length. And he is not averse to taking calculated risks.

Gambhir played Muralitharan particularly well; he used his feet to get to the pitch of the ball or picked the length early and played the ball late. The southpaw’s inside-out shots harried the great off-spinner.

Dhoni, walking in at No. 3, rotated the strike initially before launching into typically powerful and wristy drives. His straight hits boomed down the ground.

The ease with which he moves across and picks gaps on the on-side enables Dhoni to keep the scoreboard ticking even during periods when the bowling is relatively tight. While powerful strokes remain his strength, Dhoni is a smart batsman.

India lost some initiative in the middle-overs. Dhoni fell attempting to hit Sanath Jayasuriya against the spin and paceman Nuwan Kulasekara castled Yuvraj Singh — with a lovely yorker — and Yusuf Pathan with an off-cutter. Yuvraj and Yusuf were dismissed soon after India had taken the Power Play in the 35th over.



Mahendra Singh Dhoni... a punishing innings.

However, Raina sizzled in the end overs. This southpaw is a natural shot-maker and bats with timing and poise. Importantly, he collected runs without seeming to take undue risks.

Sri Lanka was up against it. The host threatened initially with the aggressive opening pair of Sanath Jayasuriya (27 off 16 balls) and Tillekeratne Dilshan (38 off 45) whipping up 55 off just 7.2 overs.

Jayasuriya struck Irfan Pathan for two astonishing sixes over covers before a smart catch by Rohit Sharma at short cover ended his cameo.

Praveen Kumar bowled well, but Irfan and Ishant Sharma struggled for rhythm.

However, chasing a target in excess of 325 required sustained spells of aggression and the Sri Lankan batsmen perished in their bid to keep up with the asking rate.

Only Kumar Sangakkara (56, 74b, 4x4) offered a measure of resistance. Sri Lanka failed to build partnerships. There was help for the spinners under the lights and left-arm spinner Ojha got the ball to grip and turn. His bowling was underlined by revolution and flight. Sehwag also bowled usefully, picked up key wickets.

The match was marred by an unsavoury incident.

The Indians walked out of the ground in protest after Ojha was hit by an object while fielding in the deep. Play was held up for 21 minutes; once the match resumed the Indians were in control. And they kept their date with history.

THE SCORES

R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, February 5. India won by 67 runs.

India: V. Sehwag c Jayasuriya b Kulasekara 5; G. Gambhir c Sangakkara b Muralitharan 150; M. S. Dhoni c Fernando b Jayasuriya 94; Yuvraj Singh b Kulasekara 5; Y. K. Pathan b Kulasekara 0; S. K. Raina (not out) 49; R. G. Sharma (not out) 4; Extras (lb 9, w 15, nb 1) 25; Total (for five wkts., 50 overs) 332.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-202, 3-207, 4-207, 5-310.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 10-0-63-3; Maharoof 10-0-60-0; Fernando 9-0-64-0; Mathews 3-0-24-0; Muralitharan 10-0-66-1; Jayasuriya 8-0-46-1.

Sri Lanka: T. M. Dilshan c Yuvraj Singh b Praveen Kumar 38; S. T. Jayasuriya c R. Sharma b I. Pathan 27; K. C. Sangakkara c Gambhir b Sehwag 56; M. Jayawardene c Dhoni b Sehwag 28; T. Kandamby lbw b Y. Pathan 10; C. Kapugedera b Ojha 16; A. D. Mathews c Dhoni b Yuvraj 6; F. Maharoof c R. Sharma b I. Pathan 28; N. Kulasekara (not out) 39; M. Muralitharan c Raina b I. Pathan 0; D. Fernando b Kumar 9; Extras (lb 3, w 5) 8; Total (in 48 overs) 265.

Fall of wickets: 1-55, 2-79, 3-140, 4-163, 5-174, 6-183, 7-207, 8-220, 9-220.

India bowling: Praveen Kumar 9-0-38-2; I. Pathan 7-0-58-3; I. Sharma 5-0-39-0; Ojha 10-0-34-1; Sehwag 9-0-43-2; Y. Pathan 3-0-13-1; Yuvraj 5-0-37-1.



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