Sri Lanka survived a scare in a low-scoring, see-sawing ODI in Dambulla. Rahul Dravid, India's captain, won the toss and elected to bat, and after Virender Sehwag had taken three fours off the Sri Lankan opening bowlers Farveez Maharoof and Dilhara Lokuhettige, things looked up, as India had made 17 off the first two overs. However, Sehwag was bowled by Maharoof with the thirteenth ball of the day, Mahendra Singh Dhoni soon followed to the pavilion, and suddenly it was up to Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh to rebuild, the score 22 for 2. Yuvraj and Dravid played cautiously, yet Yuvraj still managed to give away his wicket, pulling to substitute fielder Upul Tharanga at mid-on.
More wickets followed - 18-year-old Suresh Raina trapped lbw facing his first ball in senior international cricket by Muttiah Muralitharan's doosra - as India crumbled to 64 for 5. Dravid, however, played a very reliable knock, and together with another debutant, Yalaka Venugopal Rao he added 58 in thirteen overs. However, it came to an end too early to help India significantly in the late overs, leg-spinner Upul Chandana sneaking a ball past his bat and pads and having him bowled for 54, and India were staring at a very low score - 122 for 6 after nearly 33 overs.
Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan both added 20, however, which coupled with Irfan Pathan's slow but steady 21 lifted India to a somewhat competitive 205 for 9. The only downside for Sri Lanka was that their opener Sanath Jayasuriya had torn his shoulder, and looked unlikely to have a bat. Therefore, Kumar Sangakkara joined Marvan Atapattu as openers for Sri Lanka - the pair added 19 off 26 balls, before Irfan Pathan dug him out with a good inswinger.
India took wickets regularly, but by the end of the 25th over Sri Lanka were 99 for 3, and well on the way to chasing 206 - without even needing Jayasuriya. Or so it seemed. But Harbhajan's off-breaks two players to miss their shots, and suddenly the score was 112 for 5 - with an injured Sanath Jayasuriya and debutant Dilhara at the crease. However, Jayasuriya battled on bravely - some might say foolishly - and made an unbeaten 43 to guide Sri Lanka to the target with ten balls to spare, well helped by Farveez Maharoof, who made 23 from number 9 including four fours hit in front of square and a number of nervy shots that missed the bat.
India bounced back as expected against the West Indies, who could only take Narsingh Deonarine's good form as some kind of positive event from this game. Having only put on the solitary run from eight deliveries, Runako Morton was lbw to Irfan Pathan, and when Sylvester Joseph and Xavier Marshall followed in quick succession, West Indies were struggling on 32 for 3, Marshall having hit 26 of the runs.
However, Deonarine - who had struggled to get off the mark - and Shivnarine Chanderpaul survived for 17 overs, making only 52 before Raina took his first international wicket as Chanderpaul missed a straight delivery. Ricardo Powell followed shortly afterwards, and despite some slogging from Dwayne Smith, who made 20 off 7 balls including two sixes, and Tino Best, who made 24, West Indies crumbled to 178 all out as Ashish Nehra took two late-order wickets and Zaheer Khan took the final wicket, Best smashing a straight drive right to Raina at long on.
Jermaine Lawson, Best and Daren Powell all bowled with heart and pace, but they bowled too many loose balls against a new-look Indian top-order. Mohammad Kaif had been sent in to open, and did quite well, until he got a rush of blood to the head and nicked Best to Joseph at slip, gone for 24. Earlier, Sehwag had been caught behind down the leg side after a delivery by Lawson, while Raina looked nervy and uncertain, yet still made 35 thanks to loose bowling and a few dropped catches.
After the shaky first 15 overs, which had yielded 83 runs and three wickets, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh settled in the crease, accumulating runs all around the pitch, and the dismissal of Yuvraj didn't bother them much - Dhoni took his place with ease, smashing a four and a six on the way to an unbeaten 15, and India reached the target with fourteen overs to spare.
Sri Lanka went top of the table against after a crushing 50-run win over West Indies, which but for Dwayne Smith's thumping 68 would have been even greater. It started well for West Indies, the international debutant (at the ripe age of 31) Deighton Butler from St Vincent dug out Upul Tharanga for 6 in the third over of the match, but Atapattu and Sangakkara played themselves well in. Butler toiled and toiled, but despite two maiden overs he could only get the one wicket - for 25 runs, but it didn't really matter.
Sangakkara and Atapattu took their runs from other sources, particularly Lawson, and they paired up for 34 overs - a marathon partnership in ODI cricket. After 25 overs, the score was a paltry 78 for 1, but the pair took to the attack in the next 10 overs and added another 71 before part-timer Deonarine had Sangakkara caught at cover for 79. However, despite wickets tumbling, Sri Lanka kept the run rate up well and added 107 in the last 15 overs - Russel Arnold making an unbeaten 21 and pairing up with Upul Chandana for 36 for the seventh wicket to see Sri Lanka to the 50-over mark on 241 for 6.
West Indies would have known that the Dambulla pitch was rarely one for the big totals, and the 242 to win looked more than challenging. And instead of staying in their shell and waiting for the Sri Lankan bowlers to get frustrated with the task, like Atapattu and Sangakkara had done to the West Indies attack earlier on, West Indies went after the swinging balls, and duly paid with their wickets. Farveez Maharoof bowled three maidens in succession, two of them including a wicket falling, and after seven overs West Indies were 18 for 2.
Dilhara Lokuhettige continued to plug away, and got two more wickets in the space of five overs, and also had a catch dropped. After 20 overs, the West Indies were 55 for 5, Maharoof having bowled ten of those - for a total of nine runs conceded, and three wickets taken. Dwayne Smith, Deonarine and Ramdin tried to recover, but Deonarine inside edged a delivery from Dilhara Fernando back onto his own stumps for 23, and when Ramdin departed for 29 in the 37th over after a 46-run partnership, all looked well and truly lost. The last rites were performed with Lawson being stumped off Dilshan, as West Indies finished on 191 all out - one run short of gaining a bonus point.
Sri Lanka recorded their third win of the series, but this one was clutched from the jaws of defeat. Having been put in the field by Rahul Dravid - still captain of India, despite Sourav Ganguly's return to international cricket following his four-match ban - the opening bowlers were taken for 67 runs in 15 overs, Virender Sehwag and Ganguly enjoying the moment. Only the debutant, 21-year-old Pradeep Jayaprakashdaran, got a wicket, and indeed he was quite economical, only conceding 21 in his six overs. However, the five wides he bowled meant that he wasn't judged useful - along with the fact that the part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan was most effective.
Dilshan got three of the next four wickets, but only after India had moved to 117 for 1 - VVS Laxman departing first for 22, Ganguly quickly following suit after having hit 51 - and 10,000 ODI runs in his career, and Rahul Dravid was deceived by the drift and clean bowled by the spinner for a golden duck. Dilshan got a fourth scalp, that of Suresh Raina, and finished with excellent figures of four for 29 - unfortunately for Sri Lanka, few others managed to be effective, and Irfan Pathan and Mohammad Kaif attacked in the late overs to see India to a competitive 220 for 8.
Jayasuriya was still out due to his injury sustained in the last game against the Indians, and his reliable ODI batting - always good for a run-a-ball 40 - was missed. Pathan, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Nehra took four wickets and toiled away, another fell to a run-out, and Harbhajan Singh had Dilhara Lokuhettige caught behind for a six-ball duck. After 26 overs, Sri Lanka were 96 for 6, needing 125 from the last 24 overs with Jayawardene and the number eight, Chandana, at the crease. However, they performed the incredible comeback. They saw off Nehra - who finished with two for 22 - and went for the kill from the other bowlers, knowing that Dravid had to find ten overs from Ganguly and Sehwag. In the event, he only required nine - because the two were carted for 55 runs, Jayawardene smacked 94 not out, his highest score in four years, and Chandana finished six short of a sixth fifty, as Sri Lanka improbably made it home with two overs to spare.
West Indies took a vital win in the fifth match of the tournament, to keep their hopes alive of a final place. Muttiah Muralitharan returned for Sri Lanka, and bowled well as usual, but the main reason West Indies lost seven wickets was due to run-outs - four of the wickets fell due to that - but a disciplined and patient bowling effort saw them to a 33-run win.
It started with a surprise - Chanderpaul, the skipper who had hid himself down the order, coming in at five or six, opened the innings, in an effort to stabilise the top order. But when Tharanga ran out Xavier Marshall with a throw at the stumps, with the score at 25 for 1, it looked like the West Indies would subside for a low score again.
However, Chanderpaul batted with responsibility, Sylvester Joseph managed not to get out, although he did need 15 deliveries to get off the mark, and the two paired up for 72 - West Indies' highest second-wicket partnership in any form of cricket since early May, and although Chanderpaul departed in the 25th over , he had set a solid foundation for the other batsmen. Joseph and Deonarine added 55 together, but after 41 overs West Indies were still at a relatively paltry 166 for 4, Joseph having been run out after a mix-up with Omari Banks. However, Banks redeemed himself with a fine 33, Ricardo Powell and Best hit quick runs, and West Indies finished on a reasonable total of 226 for 7.
After an opening ten overs which yielded 46 runs, most of them from Jayasuriya the Sri Lankan fans would have been forgiven for thinking the rest of the match would be easy. However, Jayasuriya was lbw to Butler with the last delivery of the tenth over, and Daren Powell and Dwayne Smith tied the Sri Lankans down with good pace bowling. It reaped rewards - Powell got Sangakkara for 7, and Smith dug out two wickets with successive balls as Sri Lanka moved to 73 for 4. Jayawardene, who had played a match-saving 94 earlier on, gave an unnecessary heave to Daren Powell, and all of a sudden Sri Lanka were five down for 92.
Omari Banks escaped with only twenty-six runs from his ten overs, securing the wicket of Upul Chandana, and when his spell was over Sri Lanka felt compelled to lash out in order to have a go at reaching the target. It didn't work. Part-timer spinner Narsingh Deonarine got two wickets, including the final one of Arnold, who made a slow 59, and Sri Lanka whimpered to 193 - defeated by 33 runs.
This match was in effect a semi-final, both teams needing a win to proceed to the final with Sri Lanka. Rahul Dravid won the toss and chose to bat in Colombo, his team-mates were immediately worried by the hostile bowling of the West Indian seamers, who got plenty of swing and awkward bounce. It was enough to send Sourav Ganguly out of the match with an arm injury, and Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman were also dismissed early. Effectively, India were 21 for 3 at that point. Dravid and Yuvraj rebuilt with a 30-run partnership, but then Banks struck with his first ball of the day, and India looked to subside for something in the region of 150 - which would increase the West Indians' chances, as the team was lacking captain Chanderpaul due to illness and Joseph had to step in as acting captain.
Yuvraj kept his calm, however, and was well supported by Mohammad Kaif, who ran a total of 59 times across the pitch to add to his six fours. The pair took runs off Deonarine in particular, who was clubbed for 69 in eight overs, while the fast bowlers Butler, Best and Daren Powell were not used for the full ten overs. Yuvraj was eventually out for 110, sweeping to Best at short fine leg, but his 155-run partnership with Kaif and a Dhoni blitz including two sixes and 28 runs off just 13 deliveries lifted India to 262 for 4.
Marshall and Morton attacked from the outset, plundering 37 runs from the first six overs, but Pathan got Marshall out with an inswinger and bowled a wicket maiden over. Pathan, Nehra and Kumble continued to dig out wickets, but Morton remained at the crease while his team-mates abandoned him, the West Indies crashing to 112 for 6 - a score that could have been even lower had Kumble got his way with lbw decisions. He did get Banks and Dwayne Smith out in that fashion - the latter for a 12-ball cameo that yielded 26 runs - but Cricinfo reporters argued that he could have had many more. Morton stuck in, however, making 84, but when he was caught by Dravid off Nehra, West Indies needed 68 runs from 11 overs, with three wickets in hand.
Denesh Ramdin, the wicket-keeper, gave it a go. He hacked at everything, missing occasionally, but also getting quite a few boundaries - however, his team-mates couldn't quite keep up with the net run rate, and West Indies finished only seven runs short of the Indian total. Overall, a pleasing game for a not quite full-strength West Indian team, while India would still be worried about their bowling and top-order batting.
|Sri Lanka||281/9 (50 overs)||Sri Lanka won by 18 runs|
DPMD Jayawardene 83 (97)|
A Nehra 6/59 
R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka|
Umpires: EAR da Silva (SL) and SJA Taufel (Aus)
Man of the Match: DPMD Jayawardene (SL)
Man of the Series: DPMD Jayawardene (SL)
|India||263/9 (50 overs)|
R Dravid 69 (99)|
M Muralitharan 2/35 
Sri Lanka prevailed on home soil, recovering from Nehra's spell of swing bowling and Sehwag's massive onslaught to keep their 2.5-year unbeaten record in home international tournaments. It started with Atapattu choosing to bat after winning the toss, and then getting bowled by Nehra for 11 after misreading the line. Sri Lanka sent in a pinch hitter in Dilhara who hit two fours and a single off seven deliveries before being dubiously adjudged lbw, again from Nehra. Nehra took his third wicket when Sangakkara was caught at point by Sehwag, and Sri Lanka were struggling slightly at 67 for 3.
Meanwhile, Jayasuriya was dropped twice, but survived and went on to make 67 before being run out attempting a difficult second run. By that time, however, he had steadied the ship with Jayawardene, and Arnold helped to up the pace - the score being 122 for 4 after 26 overs, when Jayasuriya was out. It did not matter, as Arnold and Jayawardene treated the spinners with disdain, plundering 125 runs in 20 overs and accelerating the scoring to a point where India could not keep up. Nehra tried, and his variations gave him more wickets - he finished with the second six-wicket-haul of his career, the first coming against England in the 2003 World Cup, but a returning Vaas helped himself to 18 not out and upped the total to 281 for 9. An interesting feature of the scorecard was that no Indian bowler apart from Nehra got wickets - six for him, the other three were run outs.
India batted with composure, grit, and the occasional flamboyance - the latter coming from Sehwag especially, who plundered nine fours and a six on his way to a 22-ball 48 before Vaas curved a short one into his body and Sehwag obligingly chopped onto his stumps. It had arguably given India a perfect start, and had included a 22-run over off Dilhara. Ganguly was lbw to Dilshan in the 16th over, but Yuvraj and Dravid set the scene for an Indian victory, pairing up for 84 for the third wicket as India needed 98 in 15 overs. Tricky, but definitely possible in today's ODI cricket.
However, Yuvraj swept to Dilhara when the 36th over began, and just as Kaif had began to settle in with Dravid, a miscommunication left Dravid out of his crease, run out for 69. Kaif needed to forge a partnership with Dhoni, India's last recognised batsman as they had gone in with five specialist bowlers, but Dhoni was deceived by a straight ball from Chandana and lbw for 7. None of the batsmen from seven to eleven managed to get into double figures, Kaif was left to injudicious hitting and naturally top-edged one to midwicket, and India's chase - thought to be relatively simple fifteen overs before - ended a whole 18 runs short of Sri Lanka's total.