PORT-OF-SPAIN — A stellar performance from fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar coupled with some good support from Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma helped India thrash a woeful Sri Lanka by 81 runs in a rain reduced contest at Port-of-Spain today. Chasing a Duckworth-Lewis revised target of 178 off 26 overs, Sri Lanka were bundled out for a paltry 96 to lose by 81 runs. India stormed into the finals where once again they will face their familiar and favourite foes on Thursday.
Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to field expecting some moisture and seam movement with the heavy conditions around. Dilhara Lokuhettige replaced the injured Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath came in for Senanayake. The opening seam bowling pair of Eranga and Dilhara bowled a testing initial spell, keeping the length full and swinging the ball in both directions. Rohit Sharma appeared in particular discomfort and was very circumspect.
Skipper Angelo Mathews struck in his first over giving Sri Lanka the first breakthrough in the 7th over when he got Shikhar Dhawan to edge one to Mahela Jayawardene at slip – the southpaw departed for 15. Rohit Sharma was given a reprieve when he was just on 11. He was dropped by Jeevan Mendis at point off Lasith Malinga. India could muster only 37 in the mandatory powerplay.
The Sri Lankan seamers kept up the pressure, bowling a tight and probing line and getting plenty of assistance from the wicket and the prevailing overcast conditions. The good work of the opening pair was kept up by Angelo Mathews and Malinga. Runs were at a premium and the boundaries were scarce. Rangana Herath ended the 49 run second wicket stand when he trapped the Indian skipper Virat Kohli plumb lbw for 31. India had moved to 76 for 2 in the 21st.
Sharma and Dinesh Karthik tried to put a foot on the accelerator. They attacked Herath heaving him for a six each and had put together a 35-run partnership before Karthik was castled by Herath for 12 with the score on 111. India had posted 119 for 3 after 29 overs before a heavy downpour halted play. Persistent rain meant that that was the end of the Indian innings and the Sri Lankan’s were set a revised Duckworth-Lewis target of 178 off 26 overs. Skipper Angelo Mathews was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers and conceded just five runs off his five overs. He was well supported by Malinga who gave away just 7 off his three overs.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave Sri Lanka a double blow getting rid of Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara off successive deliveries in the 3rd over of the innings. He was getting some prodigious swing and making life difficult for the Sri Lankans. However, Sangakkara could consider himself unlucky after umpire Peter Nero adjudged him lbw to a ball that pitched marginally outside leg stump and would have missed the stumps. The situation got from bad to worse as Kumar saw the back of Jayawardene and Thirimanne in the 7th and 9th overs of the innings to leave Sri Lanka in dire straits at 31 for 4.
The only solace for the Sri Lankans was that they had qualified for the finals (after crossing 28) on virtue of their net run-rate. But there was very little else for them to write home about. Dinesh Chandimal and Mathews provided some resistance before Ravindra Jadeja got rid of the latter for 10. Chandimal was stumped by Karthik for 26 off Jadeja and now Sri Lanka were staring at defeat at 63 for 6 after 16 overs. Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin ran through the lower order to clean up Sri Lanka for a paltry 96.
It was a pathetic batting display by the Sri Lankans. None of their batsmen showed any application and the willingness to stay at the crease. On the other hand, India marched into the finals courtesy a stellar performance by their bowlers. Kumar, the Man-of-the-Match, was the standout bowler and ended with figures of 6-1-8-4. He was given excellent support by Jadeja and Ishant who chipped in with 2 wickets each. India will now face Sri Lanka in the final at the same venue on Thursday.