Asia Cup 2008 : India Through To The Finals

Prthvir SolankiCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2008

After Pakistan's emphatic win over India, thanks to the heroics of Younis Khan, India were in a shaky position as they had to beat Sri Lanka, who had not gone a toe wrong in the tournament.

Match day and Dhoni dropped Chawla and Yusuf Pathan to bring in Pragyan Ojha and found an extra bowler in RP Singh. Jayawardene won the toss and asked the Boys In Blue to bowl. The fatigue of the team was obviously low as the previous day, they were just running up and down trying to stop the ball but the Indians made sure that Sri Lanka would not take advantage of that.

Ishant Sharma, who had been having a quite tournament, struck in his second over to get the wicket of the in form batsman, Kumara Sangakarra caught behind. But Jayasuriya was not being merciful as he thrashed Irfan Pathan all over the park. India's fielding was poor and it cost them two catches of the Matara Mauler. Then Ishant struck again getting Jayasuriya out to end his quickfire 43, but things only got tougher from there as captain, Jayawardene and young Kapugedera added another 78 runs for the third wicket.

Then Pragyan Ojha, who impressed many after his match against Bangladesh, got the big wicket of Mahela Jayawardene as he was caught by Gautam Gambhir. Again if you thought all woes were gone, Chamara Silva and Kapugedera 68 runs and in the process, Kapugedera got a brilliant half century filled with awesome cover drives. And then his brave knock came to an end when Pravin Kumar trapped him in front of the stumps.

Then came in the important cameos towards the end of the innings. Dilshan, Weeraratne and Thushara added extra pressure on the Indian bowlers as they scored 74 runs in the last 10 overs. India were set a target of 309 runs in their 50 overs. Not a very good performance by the bowlers and the batsman had to perform to the fullest in order to reach the finals.

Getting Sehwag and Gambhir out as early as possible would have been Sri Lanka's first target, but it seemed tough with a bowling line up without Vaas and Mendis but they got their chance in the second ball as Gambhir's try to cut the ball failed and it flew over the keepers head for four. Gambhir was brave enough to try it again in the next ball and this time, it hit the meat of the bat and the same result was achieved. Sehwag was at his usual best, thrashing the bowlers wherever he could and India got off to a flying start scoring 71 in the first ten overs.

Then, in the twelfth over, Sehwag smashed a four and then tried another one but got himself caught at short fine leg thanks to a slower ball by Kulasekara and India lost their first wicket at 92. Raina came in hit a four on his second ball and showed the Lankans that his form was still with him even after failing to make an impact against Pakistan. Gambhir then reached his fifty in style, going down the track to Thilan Thushara and smashing it straight for four.

Then fell the second wicket, as Sri Lanka's most experienced spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, got Gambhir LBW for a classy 68. Then came in in form captain Dhoni, promoting himself up to number four. Raina soon reached another half century in the tournament in 63 balls. Dhoni on the other end, looking at Raina's calm batting, showed glimpses of his past hitting it hard straight down the ground for six and maybe for the first time since being captain, Dhoni reached his fifty at a strike rate of more than 100. Soon after that though, Raina lost his wicket trying to take a risky third run and within the next five overs, Dhoni saw his stumps being rattled by his Chennai teammate, Muralitharan.

Then it looked like the match could have been closer but Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma removed all such doubts as they reached the target with 19 balls to spare.

The man of the match was rightly given to the Indian captain, as in two consecutive days, he played long innings and kept superbly behind the stumps.

Now that the home team are out, to days match will be of no significance. India take on Sri Lanka again on Sunday, that means a well earned three days rest for Dhoni and his boys.

Could this be a rehearsal for the finals? Or will the addition of Vaas and Mendis change things? We will find out on the 6th of July.