Dambulla: Sri Lanka prevented Virender Sehwag (99 not out) from scoring a century but could not stop him from steering India to a comfortable six-wicket win in the cricket tri-series here on Monday.
India needed just five runs to chase down the 171-run target and Sehwag just one run to get his hundred when Lankan spinner Suraj Randiv came in to bowl 35th over of the Indian innings.
The off-spinner gave four byes in the first ball, which kept a little low, bowled two dot balls, and then bowled a big no-ball, which Sehwag smashed out of ground.
Since it was a no-ball, no runs were added to Sehwag’s score and he remained not out on 99.
It looked a deliberate no-ball since Randiv’s back foot was where bowlers normally have their front foot while bowling.
Sehwag though had no complaints as when match ended he said, “Bowlers try to do that when batsmen are on 99. Fair enough.”
The win, which was set up by the bowlers, brought India’s tri-series campaign back on track as they had suffered a huge 200-run loss in the opening match against New Zealand.
India’s pacers and spinners rose to occasion and exploited the helpful conditions to bundle out Sri Lanka for a paltry 170 after Kumar Sangakkara elected to bat.
Sehwag was the hero of Indian chase as he batted through the innings in his terrific 99-run knock, which was a mix of control and aggression.
Sehwag’s knock was a responsible one as it came in a tricky situation and under challenging circumstances.
India’s top-order had collapsed at the beginning and Suresh Rania (21) also threw his wicket after getting his eye in but Sehwag held the Indian innings together and in company of M S Dhoni (23) steered his side to win.
Sehwag’s 99 came off 100 balls with 11 fours and two sixes and Dhoni also supported him well with his 38-ball knock and had two fours.
India lost Dinesh Karthik (10), Virat Kohli (0) and Rohit Sharma (0) in quick succession early in the innings.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s decision to bat backfired as Indian bowlers were all over the hosts right from the first ball when Upul Tharanga was cleaned bowled by Praveen Kumar.
Had Suraj Randiv (43) and Nuwan Kulasekara (22) not played defiant knocks down the order, the hosts innings would have been wearing a more miserable look.
They put up a 39-run stand, highest of Lankan innings, for the eighth wicket to help Sri Lanka go past the 150-mark.
Tillakaratane Dilshan (45) was the only top-order batsman who showed stomach for fight but fell while going for an extravagant shot when situation demanded patience.
The Pace trio of Kumar (2/20), Ishant Sharma (2/32) and Ashish Nehra (1/39) blew away the host top-order to start the devastation of the Lankan innings.
The spinners — Pragyan Ojha (3/36) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/34) — joined the party and broke the back of the Lankan innings with lethal blows.
In an ominous start for home side, Opener Tharanga and his teammates were shell shocked when a swinging first ball of the match by Praveen Kumar uprooted the stumps.
The heavy conditions were ideal for bowling and Indian pacers rose to the occasion.
Soon skipper Kumar Sangakkara (2) fell to Nehra and Mahela Jayawardene (4) became second victim of Kumar.
Lanky Ishant Sharma got his first wicket in Thilan Samaraweera (7) and Lankan innings was in complete disarray.
They never recovered from the early shocks and Ojha and Jadeja kept the pressure by taking wickets.
Dilshan was batting beautifully from the other end but lost patience and top-edged to Rohit Sharma off Ojha.
Jadeja struck twice by removing Chamara Kapugedara and Angelo Mathews to puncture all Lankan hopes.