Karachi: Right from the first ball that he tucked to square-leg for a brace, Sanath Jayasuriya existed on a different pitch while the other batsmen, with the exception of Dilshan, seemed ill at ease.
It was like watching an Indiana Jones series interpolated with bits from a tear-jerker but with Jayasuriya mixing power and placement, Sri Lanka had compelling reasons to believe in hope and rebirth.
Jayasuriya’s 125, his 27th ODI century, and his 131-run fifth-wicket partnership with T.M. Dilshan revived an innings that was tottering at 66 for four in 12 overs and helped Sri Lanka score 273 in 49.5 overs against India in the STAR Cricket Asia Cup final at the National Stadium here on Sunday.Dhoni’s surprise
After both camps stressed on batting first on winning the toss, M.S. Dhoni threw in a surprise by inviting Sri Lanka to take first strike.
Dhoni also beefed up his batting line-up with Robin Uthappa. A run-rich tournament might have egged on Dhoni to bolster the team’s batting depth as well as opt for the chase.
After the first over bowled by R.P. Singh went for 11 runs and a premonition of yet another day of tall scores was settling amidst the crowd that consisted of about 10,000 ‘free ticket’ holders, Ishant’s next over led to a collective intake of breath as the Indians celebrated Kumar Sangakkara’s dismissal.
Jayasuriya tapped Ishant straight to Suresh Raina, Sangakkara charged from the non-striker’s end, and it was all over.Ishant strikes
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene had four fielders in his gaze on the off-side and failed to keep his cut grounded. Ishant struck again as Kapugedera, while trying to force one to the on-side, suffered a leading edge. Two deliveries later, Ishant had Chamara Silva chopping one onto his stumps.
Jayasuriya (125, 114b, 9x4, 5x6), meanwhile, rocked back to cut and pull both Ishant and Irfan Pathan and later pummelled R.P. Singh for 26 in an over that smacked of sheer disdain from the Matara man.
The ease with which he flexed his forearms and swivelled his legs to generate power belied his 39 summers. And in Dilshan (56), Jayasuriya found sustenance.
Dilshan creamed an errant Irfan for three fours in an over and then reverted to playing second fiddle while Jayasuriya ruled.Delighted
Jayasuriya glanced Sehwag to short fine-leg for the single that got his hundred and jumped with the delight of a child who sighted chocolate on the dinner table. The southpaw fell with a slog-sweep but it was a supreme innings though the lone discomfort was when Ishant got one to dart past his rib-cage early in the innings.
Dilshan also succumbed and the rest added 60 runs to a total that though lacking in awe can still test Dhoni’s men later in the night. For the Indians, Ishant bowled a good first spell, Pragyan Ojha was steady, but Irfan frittered away, gifting width and got punished.