If any further proof was needed of how dominant India have been in this Champions Trophy, there was ample of it in the semi-final against Sri Lanka at Cardiff on Thursday. India got the best of the conditions to bowl on and took full advantage of the same. Right from the start, the Indian bowlers never allowed the Sri Lankan batsmen to settle down. Once they lost early wickets they were always on the back foot, and all the Indian bowlers combined to pin them down. With the in-form Indian batsmen, the chase was then a breeze.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had been impressive in the game against Pakistan, was at his best again. He got the early breakthrough for India, having Kusal Perera caught at Suresh Raina for 4. There was further luck for India when, just a couple of overs later, the other opener, and the more experienced one, Tillakaratne Dilshan retired hurt, having possibly pulled a calf muscle while trying to deal with another of those swinging deliveries. Dilshan heading back to the pavilion was a big setback for Sri Lanka since they were anyways struggling to up the slow scoring rate.
On a pitch that was offering plenty of bounce and movement, Ishant Sharma finally came into his own. He sent back both Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara, both of them caught by the safe hands of Raina. Before they were dismissed, the duo consumed plenty of deliveries in their effort to get their eye in on the tough surface. Their struggled would be evident by their figures – Thirimanne played 31 balls for his 7 and Sangakkara hung around for 44 balls for his 17. Their respective dismissals left Sri Lanka in all sorts of strike at 41 for 3 in the 18th over.
The only semblance of resistance for Lanka came after that. Former skipper and current skipper Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews combined in a rebuilding alliance. They were slow and steady, but ensured that the batting side did not lose any wicket for the next 18 overs. It again took the guile of Ravindra Jadeja for India to break through. The left-arm spinner got through the defence of Jayawardene and bowled him for 38. Mathews, on the other hand, went on to complete his half-century before falling in the slog overs to R. Ashwin. A breezy cameo from Jeevan Mendis saw Lanka end with 181 for 8, with Dilshan returning to bat towards the end.
Among India’s bowlers, Ishant was the most effective with 3 for 33 while Ashwin helped himself to three wickets as well, troubling the lower order. Chasing the paltry total, India were at ease once Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan gave them a good start again. The duo steadily added 77 in 17 overs, before Sharma yet again gave his wicket away, for 33. Dhawan continued to blossom as he has done throughout the series. He made a patient 68 off 92 balls before being stumped off Jeevan Mendis’ bowling. Virat Kohli got his mandatory good score against Lanka – this time an unbeaten 58 – as India eased into the finals with an eight-wicket triumph.
--By A Cricket Analyst