Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ajantha turn Indians into stones at Karachi: Sri Lanka thrash India by 100 runs to lift Asia Cup

By John Cheeran
India's famed batting lineup collapsed without figuring out a 23-year old Sri Lankan spinner in the final of Asia Cup in Karachi yesterday. Ajantha Mendis totally outwitted the Indians, who have a reputation of handling spinners, including the great Shane Warne, with disdain.
Pakistani spectators would have been happy at the defeat of its neighbours, who pushed the hosts out of the final, but for the Melody bomb blasts in Islamabad the same evening.
With Mendis taking six wickets for less than 10 runs in six overs, India, who had began its chase of 273 runs with a blitzkrieg from opener Virender Sehwag, lost its way. Even skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's doggedness at the crease was not enough to turn the things around.
Till the 10th over of the chase, things were going in India's way (76 for one). But Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene introduced the mystery man Mendis in the 10th over and with second ball of his over the spinner had Sehwag stumped. One ball later Mendis bowled Yuvraj Singh. The match by and large had been won and lost in that crucial over. India never recovered from that double blow. Soon Suresh Raina was deceived. In a blink five Indian wickets collapsed. And Muttaiah Muralitharan had not even started his bowling.
As Sri Lanka celebrates the Asia Cup triumph it would not go unnoticed that two outstanding contributions made the victory possible in a contrasting manner. Veteran batsman Sanath Jayasuriya lifted his side single handedly from the abyss that Indian pacer Ishant sharam had pushed them into with a innings that bore the hallmark of a untainted genius, after all these years. And later, a young Mendis made an improbable victory possible in a single over. One should say that not even Muralitharan in his pomp had troubled and hurt an Indian batting lineup the fashion in which Mendis did in Karachi.
Sri Lankan cricket has discovered a gem and I'm sure time will add more lustre and variety to Mendis's craft.

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