x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Champions Trophy: India execute script in semi-final win over Sri Lanka

Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showcased their skills for India who held Sri Lanka to 181 for 8 and then knocked off the runs in their semi-final victory, writes Anand Vasu.

India’s Shikhar Dhawan makes his ground during the Champions Trophy semi-final against Sri Lanka on Thursday. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
India’s Shikhar Dhawan makes his ground during the Champions Trophy semi-final against Sri Lanka on Thursday. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Sri Lanka 181-8 (50 ov)
India 182-2 (35 ov)

Toss India, chose to field
Sri Lanka Mathews 51, Jayawardene 38; Sharma 3-33
India Dhawan 68, Kohli 58; Mathews 1-10
Man of the match Ishant Sharma (India)

Cardiff, WALES // On a grey yet eventful day, nothing could break India's superb rhythm – not cold winds, not Sri Lanka's best batting or bowling, not protesters running onto the ground more than once – as they embraced unusually bowler friendly conditions to restrict Sri Lanka to 181 for 8 and then knocked off the runs with no fuss.

"I think the match followed a pretty well-written script … win the toss in helpful conditions, bowl well, then finish things off with the bat," said MS Dhoni, soon after India set up a compelling final against England, the hosts, in the Champions Trophy.

When Dhoni put Sri Lanka in, the ball swung more than it had all tournament. Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showcased their skills with great accuracy, and Kusal Perera's nightmare of a tournament ended with 14 runs from four outings as he popped a catch to Suresh Raina off Kumar. A bad situation got worse as Tillakaratne Dilshan, on 12, hobbled off the field with a calf injury.

From that point on, India's bowlers were all over Sri Lanka. Yadav, bowling a touch within himself, and Kumar, holding a tight line outside the off, got the ball to move in the air and off the pitch just enough to keep the batsmen honest. In the first powerplay, 48 of the 60 balls bowled were not scored off, and one wicket fell as Sri Lanka eked out 26 runs.

Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne were left with the dual task of blunting the bowling and rebuilding the innings, and they seemed to have the stomach for the fight, and though they added only 19 runs in 10.5 overs, the pair ensured that India's bowlers were forced to earn their wickets.

Yadav and Kumar set the trap, but it was Ishant Sharma who reaped the reward, hitting an excellent length consistently, extracting a bit of extra bounce to have both Thirimanne (7 off 31 balls) and Sangakkara (17 off 44 balls) caught by Raina at slip.

With the conditions being so obviously stacked in favour of the quick bowlers, Dhoni realised he needed an extra, non-spin option, and a quick look around the field confirmed that he was the man for the job. From the 23rd over to the 31st over Dinesh Karthik took the big gloves as Dhoni racked up figures of 4-0-17-0 occasionally touching 125kph. In the process, Dhoni even won an lbw shout against Mahela Jayawardene when an in-ducker caught the batsman pretty adjacent, only for a review to reveal an inside edge.

Jayawardene, who had a good read of the conditions, fought hard, nudging, glancing, late cutting and gliding the ball into the gaps when it was safe to do so, and had made 38, when Ravindra Jadeja breached his defences and pegged back the stumps.

From there on, even captain's innings from Angelo Mathews could not lift Sri Lanka. The second powerplay proved worse than the first, with only 12 runs coming between the 35th and 40th overs.

Mathews tried to hit his way out of trouble, but, even after Virat Kohli missed a skier at long-on, Mathews could not press home the advantage. When Sri Lanka ended on 181 for 8 against a batting line-up at the top of its confidence, they would have known that they were dead in the water without early wickets. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who had put up stands of 127, 101 and 58 in the matches leading up to the semi-final, could have been separated early, but Mathews put down Dhawan at slip.

Then it was all India as Rohit and Dhawan brought up their fourth consecutive half-century opening partnership, and Kohli bullied his way to an unbeaten 58 that saw India home with 15 overs to spare.

Anand Vasu is managing editor of Wisden India.

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