Sri Lanka Capitalise on Indian Errors
1st T20, Nagpur – Sri Lanka (215/5) beat India (186/9) by 29 runs
The Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur is by far India’s smartest cricket venue. An all-seater stadium, complete with superb facilities for the media, corporate clients and paying spectators, it is a fitting setting for world-class cricket. Importantly, the arena looks truly world-class via the medium of television, and encompasses a wicket encouraging attractive cricket. India recently notched a gigantic 354, with a stunning 124 from MS Dhoni during October’s One-day series with Australia at this venue, on a wicket ideal for a limited-over contest. The latest clash at Nagpur was no different, with a wicket encouraging the very cricket that T20 provides a platform to flourish.
Hitting a superb line and crucially, length in the opening overs, Nehra and Ishant afforded little width to Dilshan and Jayasuriya, exploiting the pace and bounce. Taking a number of overs to settle, the Sri Lankan openers later capitalised on what was to become a woeful display of Indian bowling and fielding. Initially looking sharp and suitably energised in the field, the quality decreased following a gift of a chance dropped by Yuvraj Singh at extra-cover from Jayasuriya.
Sharma missed a caught a bowled chance from Dilshan, juggling the ball, before it hit the surface to deny the tall bowler. Yet the rot had set in and the Sri Lankans plundered boundaries and picked up valuable runs as the Indians drifted into fielding drudgery.
Sangakara’s innings of 78 propelled the Sri Lankan innings with a mixture of perfect placement and exquisite timing. When not finding the boundary with proper cricket shots of power as much as elegance, Sangakara pierced the field with finesse and diligence. His only shot resembling a slog, a top edge looping high in the air, found Ishant Sharma, who doubled over into a heap, spilled the chance in an effort typical of the India fielding display.
The innings finished in a blaze of boundaries to push the score up to 215/5, the stars of the field, the young ball boys kept busy fetching the Sri Lankans exploits, demonstrating the energy and focus the Indians lacked.
On a pitch of this quality, a large total, to be chased down by an equally imposing Indian batting line-up did not seem completely out of the question. Sehwag (26) started brightly, as the Sri Lankans inherited the short and wide bowling baton. Yet batting with such exuberance eventually found a fielder, the catch taken at deep square-leg.
With Gambhir at the crease, gaps in the field were found as India kept up with the rate of scoring. Lasith Malinga was introduced into the attack in the 6th over, as Indian momentum was forming dangerously. Starting off well with a number of slower balls, Gambhir would dispatch four 4s through the offside with cuts that the Indian opener has made his own in the past year. Malinga the victim of power play fielding restrictions, with scant cover on the off side boundary.
Gambhir (55) was bowled by Matthews attempting to sweep him fine, yet movement to the off-side left his leg stump exposed, so to the Indian bating order. Indian wickets coincided with the introduction of the spin option in Jayasuriya. Dhoni holed out to deep midwicket, Rohit was run out in a catastrophic run out, and Yuvraj found long-on. The Sri Lankans made an example of sharp fielding, as Pathan mistimed to a diving Malinga, superbly catching in no mans land in front of long-on. India had lost their way, and despite a bright start from Sehwag and Gambhir, their innings matched the Sri Lankans inversely.
The wicket at Nagpur promises large totals and surely some enjoyable future contests. Yet within a stunning and worth arena, the basics of cricket need to be observed, regardless of format. India found their fielding errors costly in this game.
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