Monday, July 07, 2008

Ajantha and Sanath help Sri Lanka clinch Asia Cup

Sri Lanka’s new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis grabbed a six wicket haul after Sanath Jayasuriya had hammered a brilliant century as Sri Lanka clinched the Asia Cup for the fourth time defeating India by 100 runs in the six nation tournament final worked off under lights at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday.

Mendis playing in his first Asia Cup final returned career best figures of six wickets for 13 runs as India were dismissed for 173 runs in the 40th over while chasing Sri Lanka’s formidable total of 273. Sri Lanka’s success in this ninth edition of the Asia Cup had a great amount of significance because this was the first time they had won the title while performing away from home.

Mendis came into bowl at a vital stage of the innings when the Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautham Gambhir had given their side another solid start during their run chase. Although Gambhir fell in the fifth over his partner Sehwag continued to punish the Sri Lankan attack reaching his fifty from just 26 balls with ten fours.

However Mendis struck twice in his first over removing Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh and soon the game took a dramatic change from there onwards with Sri Lanka beginning to take control of the situation.

Mendis finished his first spell with remarkable figures of four wickets for eight runs from four overs after adding the wickets of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Mendis came back into the attack in the 30th over and picked up two wickets in successive deliveries to seal the game in Sri Lanka’s favour.

This was also the best bowling figures ever in an innings in the Asia Cup tournament. Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni offered the only resistance with a stubborn knock of 49 from 74 deliveries with four boundaries.

This was after veteran Sanath Jayasuriya had struck a mastery century as Sri Lanka piled up 273 runs after been put into bat. The dashing left hander playing in his record 25th Asia Cup match hammered an astonishing 125 runs which was also his second in the competition and his sixth overall in the Asia Cup history before Sri Lanka folded up in the last over.

Jayasuriya who celebrated his 39th birthday recently also pushed Australian captain Riky Ponting into the third place in the most number of centuries in one day internationals while scoring his 27th hundred in his 416th match.

Even then this was a controlled innings from Jayasuriya who quite surprisingly decided to play the sheet anchor role after Sri Lanka had lost four wickets within the first 12 overs of the innings. Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhonis decision to bowl first after winning the toss certainly paid dividends as paceman Ishant Sharma picked up three key wickets during a hostile opening spell.

However Jayasuriya had the situation well under control as he took the fight into the Indian bowlers with a combination of power and science. He first showed signs of aggression when he collected 15 runs off Irfan Pathans first over including three successive boundaries.

Jayasuriya raced to his 66th one day international half century by hoisting his second six off Ishant Sharma over the mid wicket boundary. His knock also included half a dozen of boundaries and came from just 43 deliveries.

Jayasuriya delivered another severe blow on paceman R. P. Singh while taking 26 runs from one over which included three sixes and two fours.

This was a tremendous effort considering the fact that wickets had fallen at regular intervals from the other end. Jayasuriya found a reliable partner in Tillekeratne Dilshan and the pair pulled their side from a near total collapse into a strong position while putting on 131 runs for the fifth wicket.

They fell shot by just two runs from erasing the previous fifth wicket stand of 133 runs in the Asia Cup tournament set by the Indian combination of Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh against Sri Lanka at the Dambulla Stadium in 2004.

Jayasuriya’s dominance in this partnership was so much that Tillekeratne’s contribution was only four runs during their first 50 runs. This was the stage where Jayasuriya really cut loose before reaching his 27th one day international century from 79 deliveries with the aid of five sixes and nine boundaries.

Dilshan meanwhile brought an end to a series of low scores by stroking his first fifty in five innings when his team needed him most. The right hander rose to the occasion by contributing a 56 runs from 68 balls with three boundaries

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