Stuttering India register first win

Cricket Tri-series: All-round performance from Ashwin gives Dhonis men six-wicket victory

Stuttering India register first win

It wasn’t quite the way India would have liked to score their first victory of the triangular series, their four-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Thursday at the WACA built on their ability to construct useful little partnerships.

The Indian bowlers, led by man of the match R Ashwin, did a commendable job to restrict the Lankans to 233 for six, and at various stages, the total seemed capable of extending India’s misery on this tour.

Virat Kohli, who made a fine fifty, Sachin Tendulkar, who gave the impression of notching up that monumental 100th hundred, Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin chipped in with significant contributions as India overhauled the target in a little more than 46 overs.

The Indian chase started on a wobbly note, Virender Sehwag falling early to Lasith Malinga. From that point onwards, Tendulkar and Kohli batted with poise to deny another immediate breakthrough to the Lankans. There never was any moment when Tendulkar, in particular, appeared to be in any sort of trouble, striking the ball cleanly. At the other end, Kohli too was fluent as the duo stitched together a vital 75-run partnership for the second wicket.

Till then progressing smoothly, the Indian innings seemed to slipp into the doldrums once Tendulkar (48) was dismissed, dragging an Angelo Mathews delivery on to his stumps. Once the Tendulkar-Kohli stand was snapped, the Indians relied on little partnerships such as 33 between Kohli and Rohit Sharma (third wicket), and 35 between Kohli and Suresh Raina (fourth wicket) to keep the target in sight. Kohli, who has been cramping a short while into his innings, eventually ran himself out looking for a sharp single, and had to be carried off the field. 

Those partnerships might have been insignificant in terms of proportions but helped India keep the Islanders at bay till Jadeja and Ashwin produced a match-winning unbeaten alliance of 53 for the seventh wicket. The youngsters came together after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to the hut, and a wicket at that stage would have given the Lankans a look into the Indian late-order. But Ashwin and Jadeja handled the pressure well, and warded off the Lankan bowlers with great maturity as India reached home safely.

Before he came up with a handy knock, Ashwin produced a controlled spell to wreck the Lankan middle-order. The Chennai offie’s Australian summer wasn’t colourful, leaking runs and not getting enough rewards for his toils. But on a blazing hot Western Australian day, Ashwin found the right length and right method to operate on these pitches. The carrom ball was seldom on view as he focused mainly on loop and drift, the traditional strengths of an off-spinner.

The result was immensely satisfying, coming in the shape of the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal, Mahela Jayawardene and Thissara Perera. Ashwin came to bowl in a rather tough situation when Chandimal, who made a well-crafted 64, and captain Jayawardene looked all set to lengthen their 52-run alliance for the fourth wicket.

Jayawardene top-edged a sweep for Rohit to complete a good catch in the deep, and Ashwin made a brilliant follow-up work dismissing the hard-hitting Perera. Till then batting nicely, Chandimal too didn’t have any answer to the guile of Ashwin, who beat the precocious Lankan in the air and Dhoni did the rest with ease behind the stumps.

At 189 for six, Sri Lanka were in genuine danger of folding up meekly, but vice-captain Mathews played a cameo in the company of the tailenders to take his team to a competitive total. It almost served Lanka’s purpose, but the Indian batsmen had enough steam to huff past the target.

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