India wrap up seriesAlex Crampton |
In the 4th ODI against Sri Lanka, India wrapped up the series, thanks in no small part to 5 wickets for Ajit Agarkar, and 63 for Rahul Dravid.
For the 3rd time in a row, Sri Lanka batted first, after Rahul Dravid inserted the tourists. Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayusuriya started aggressively, but their partnership was short lived with Ajit Agarkar finding some inswing the new ball to trap Sangakkara lbw. Another Agarkar inswinger accounted for Jayasuriya shortly afterwards, again trapping him in front.
After impressing against Bangladesh, Upul Tharanga replaced Mahela Jayawardene, who is absent due to his marriage in the Sri Lankan XI. Batting at number 3, he scored 21 before a top-edged pull of Sree Santh, in for Murali Kartik, found Agarkar at fine leg.
With Sri Lanka now struggling at 51-3, skipper Marvan Atapattu, short of runs recently, joined Tillakaratne Dilshan at the crease. The pair hauled Sri Lanka out of trouble, with a partnership of 97 at a good rate, which was finally broken when a leading edge from Dilshan found the awaiting Sachin Tendulkar at cover, who brought his innings of 52 to an end.
Russel Arnold was the next man in, and contributed a solid 32 until an Irfan Pathan yorker got the better of him. Atapattu was sublime, his 87, a real captain’s knock, was brought to a close in the dying overs thanks to superb catch by Virender Sehwag off his own bowling. The tail did the best to slog Sri Lanka to a good total, but Agarkar returned with 3 more wickets and a run out, to bring the innings to a close on the penultimate ball, with 261 the final score.
India’s reply faltered early on, with Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh falling for 11 & 10 respectively. But Dravid and Sehwag eased India out of this spot of trouble, both playing the way the do best.
Sehwag clubbed the bowling over the park in his usual manner, while Dravid’s 63 anchored the innings, and set the platform the India’s finish. Muttiah Muralitharan ended the partnership, Sehwag edging a doosra straight to slip. The inexperienced Venugopal Rao, joined his captain and the crease, and together they added 65 more runs before Rao was caught behind off Muralitharan. Dravid was out next over, and when Pathan suffered the same fate as Rao, India were in trouble.
India sent in Super Sub Suresh Raina, and together with Dhoni, he guided India to their 4th straight victory. After his amazing 183 in the last match, Mahendra Dhoni showed he has a good head on his shoulders, as he and Raina chipped away at the target, with both the pressure and the required run rate rising. By the time the runs needed was 12, it was obvious what the result was going to be, and at this point Mahendra Dhoni offered the Sri Lankan bowlers a brief reminder of what he can do, as he smashed the unfortunate Russel Arnold for 2 consecutive sixes, securing the match and the series for India.
India can take great heart from this win, and from the series as a whole. Everyone has performed well for them at some point in this series, and under their new leader, Rahul Dravid, they are a force to be reckoned with. We will probably see some experimentation from both sides, in the dead rubber matches, but hopefully we will still see some enthralling cricket.
Sri Lanka 261 all out
Marvan Atapattu 87 (100), Tillakaratne Dilshan 52 (68)
Ajit Agarkar 5-44
Rahul Dravid 63 (72), Virender Sehwag 48 (58)
Muttiah Muralitharan 3-35
India win by 4 wickets and lead the 7 match series 4-0
Cricket Web Man of the Match
Ajit Agarkar (India), 5-44