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Friday, July 4, 2008

India seal Asia Cup final berth

India exhibited their batting prowess to perfection with their top order firing in unison to score an easy 6-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in their must-win Asia Cup Super Four match and set up a summit clash against the same opponents on Sunday.
India chased down the target of 309 with 19 balls to spare and after losing four wickets, thanks to a half century each by Gautam Gambhir (68), captain M S Dhoni (67) and Suresh Raina (54) and a valuable 42 from Virender Sehwag after Sri Lanka, electing to bat, had made 308 for 8.
Yuvraj Singh (36 not out) and Rohit Sharma (22 not out) romped him with an unfinished 57-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Thursday's result extinguished Pakistan's any hopes of making it to the final and rendered Friday's last Super Four match between the hosts and Bangladesh in Karachi inconsequential.
India made a blazing start with the opening duo of Sehwag and Gambhir carrying their solid batting form from their match against Pakistan on Wednesday, putting on 92 runs from 70 balls.
The duo drove, pulled and cut the Lankan opening bowlers without taking much risks, hitting boundaries in regular intervals and keeping the asking rate always lower than the required rate of 6.18 per over.
Sehwag played second fiddle to his junior partner but did not shy away from hitting odd balls for boundaries including a huge six off Nuwan Kulasekara
Earlier, shrugging off the disappointment of Wednesday night's defeat to Pakistan, India fought hard but could only restrict Sri Lanka to 308 for 8.
Chamara Kapugedera (75), captain Mahela Jayawardene (50) and Chamara Silva (50) scored half-centuries, but the Indian bowlers did well to peg back the Lankans on another good batting track after captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost the toss.
Playing before a sparse crowd, Sri Lanka were in control for most part of the innings but lost wickets at regular intervals after reaching 217 for three.
In the final 10 overs they lost four wickets but scored 74 runs.
Sri Lanka have already qualified for the final while India must win the game to book the other spot in the summit clash and put the hosts out of the reckoning.
After losing Kumar Sangakkara in the fourth over for just seven runs -- he was caught down the leg side off Ishant Sharma -- Sanath Jayasuriya ] went about the task in his usual fashion.
Dropped on four by Yuvraj Singh, who attempted a difficult catch running in from mid-off, Jayasuriya breezed his way to 43 from 37 balls, before he was caught by Dhoni on the leg side, giving Sharma his second wicket.
Jayawardene, who scored his 47th career fifty, and Kapugedera put Sri Lanka in the driving seat with a 78-run stand off 89 balls, to put the pressure on India.
Jayawardene fell just one ball after completing his half century off 62 balls. He was caught by Gautam Gambhir at long off after dancing down the wicket and attempting to hit Pragyan Ojha out of the ground.
Kapugedera teamed up with Silva to put on another 68 off 66 balls for the fourth wicket. Both the youngsters batted with freedom as Ojha went for runs.
Kapugedera raced to his fifth half century from 55 balls, inclusive of fours, before Praveen Kumar trapped him leg before at 217 in the 38th over.
Five overs later, Tillakeratne Dilshan also pulled Irfan down to R P Singh at fine leg after scoring 15 off 19 balls.
Silva's run-out, after reaching his 50 in the 46th over, at the total of 263 put Sri Lanka back in their effort to score quick runs in the final overs and post a big total.
Irfan Pathan was the most expensive bowler, conceding 80 in his 10 overs, his final over conceding 14 runs.

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