press trust of india
Cardiff, 20 June: A ruthless India today stormed into the final of the ICC Champions Trophy with an emphatic eight-wicket victory over a hapless Sri Lanka, relying on a clinical all-round display to put themselves on course for yet another world title. The Indians put in a disciplined bowling show to restrict Sri Lanka to 181 for eight and then overhauled the target with as many as 15 overs to spare to set up a summit showdown with hosts England on Sunday.
The 2011 World Cup champions maintained their unbeaten track record in this edition of the tournament winning all the four matches and are now gunning for their second Champions Trophy title having shared it with Sri Lanka in 2002.
While Ishant Sharma (3/33) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3/48) were the bowling heroes for India on a cloudy and chilly day at the Sofia Gardens, in-form Shikhar Dhawan (68) and Virat Kohli (58 not out) were the notable contributors with the bat in what turned out to be a completely lop-sided encounter. Dhawan scored his second ODI half-century and his 77-run opening stand with Rohit Sharma (33) set up the easy victory. In a tournament where India have flexed their batting muscle, it were the bowlers who came to the party today after India decided to chase.
Even as the afternoon remained overcast, the Sophia Gardens wicket eased out considerably and Lanka’s spearheads Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara were barely threatening. There were a few times when the ball missed the edge of the bat, but Dhawan and Rohit were never in great discomfort.
Sharma gave the Indian innings a breezy start, punching Kulasekara through covers and Dhawan matched him with a similar stroke off Malinga, who struggled to find his bowling form on a big day. Malinga actually suffered a bit of humiliation when Dhawan upper cut him for a six at backward point.
As has been a feature in this tournament, Dhawan held one end up and except for lives on 18 and 62 Kulasekara was the luckless bowler — the left-hander was a picture of confidence. His 50 came off 73 balls and was laced with six fours and a six.
The first time Rohit’s patience deserted him, he lost his wicket. Stepping out to club Mathews over extra cover, he got an inside edge and was bowled. That brought Kohli and except for a pitch invasion allegedly by Tamil Tiger supporters, there was no scare for the Indian batsmen. Kohli, whose first boundary, a lofted extra cover drive off Kulasekara, came after 41 balls, scored 65 runs for the second-wicket with Dhawan as Sri Lanka were left chasing shadows in a horribly one-sided encounter.
Dhawan (68 off 92 balls) was finally stumped by Kumar Sangakkara after the batsman played full-stretched forward to leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis and failed to regain his crease by millimeters.
Kohli, who scored his 23rd half-century, with a six off Mendis, remained unbeaten after facing 64 balls and his 40-run stand with Suresh Raina (7 not out) saw India home and dry on a day that was heavily threatened by the elements.
Earlier, Ishant and Ashwin restricted Sri Lanka. Mathews was Lanka’s top-scorer with a 51. India’s quick bowlers exploited the conditions very well on a track that saw some seam and bounce. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar moved the ball around, Ishant and Umesh Yadav used their build to torment the Lankan top order.
For the first time in the championship, India’s new ball bowlers were like demons, extracting pace, lift and lateral movement all in tandem.
Ishant got appreciable lift at the Taff River end and at least three deliveries lifted disconcertingly. There were several play and misses but the deliveries that pitched, lifted and left the batsmen, fetched the wickets. The fact that the first three Lankan batsmen were all caught at slips explains how the ball jagged around in the overcast conditions.