India’s inability to go past a mammoth Lankan target of 307, under lights on a two-paced pitch, saw them relinquish the newly-acquired No.1 rank at the Premadasa Stadium on Saturday.
The third Compaq Cup tri-series match was only of academic interest since both teams have qualified for Monday’s final but the 139-run loss – the Indians folded up for a paltry 168 in 37.2 overs – will give MS Dhoni’s men a lot to think about ahead of an important season.
India needed to win all their three matches in this tournament to head into the Champions Trophy as the world’s best ODI team but they were simply not up the task. Now they are back at No.3 in the rankings with 125 ratings point while South Africa reclaim the top spot with 127 points. Australia are at No. 2.
For the Lankans, the star was undoubtedly all-rounder Angelo Matthews – who bagged a career-best six wickets for 20 runs, also the best bowling figures for any Sri Lankan against India.
In the batting department, old warhorse Sanath Jayasuriya (celebrating a return to form with 98 off 79 balls, 13×4) and Thilina Kandamby (91 not out; 73 balls, 11×4) stepped upto the plate.
The pitch, which looked two-paced from the start, became virtually unplayable under lights and with Matthews bowling a dream spell, the Indians were never in with a chance and sorely missed Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
Rahul Dravid top-scored with 47 but a dramatic middle-order collapse saw them lose five wickets for 13 runs. The last pair of RP Singh and Ishant Sharma stitched together 29 runs or the Indians would have folded for less than a 150.
Apart from their opening blues, the pace attack which looked so impressive against the Kiwis came a cropper against the rampaging Lankans, serving a reminder that spearhead Zaheer Khan’s injury-induced absence had been a cruel blow.
Even the part-timer bowlers conceded more than six runs an over. The fielding too was sloppy, perhaps as a result of the team playing back-to-back games.
Earlier, Sanath Jayasuriya served another reminder that he wasn’t past his prime even at 40, letting his bat silence the critics and helping the Lankans pile up 307 for six. It was a feast for the near-capacity crowd.
Along with Kandamby, Angelo Matthews and Chamara Kapugedera too stuck to their task, plundering runs off the Indian attack at will.
Matthews, though, enhanced his reputation with a memorable haul of wickets after having scored a hurricane, unbeaten 50 in the first match against the Kiwis. “I want to be an all-rounder in the true sense. Not a bowling all-rounder or a batting all-rounder,” he said after the game.
This performance here on Saturday will definitely enhance his reputation.