Nuwan Kulasekara celebrates after he got the wicket of Gautam Ghambir on Tuesday. (AP PHOTO)
Brisbane: A spineless batting display which was preceded by some inexplicable moments on the field saw India crash to a 51-run defeat against Sri Lanka in match eight of the CB series at the Gabba on Tuesday.
Chasing 290 for victory, the Indian innings folded at 238 in 45.1 overs which saw them slump to their third defeat in six outings, and fall behind Australia and Sri Lanka in the points table.
While the Australians lead the points table with 14 points from five matches, the Lankans with the same number of matches lie second with 11 points, and India who have played an extra game find themselves at third place with 10 points.
The Indian innings got off to a shocker of a start, when stand-in captain Virender Sehwag lunged out to a wide delivery by Lasith Malinga off the very second ball; the result was a fine running catch by Nuwan Kulasekara at third man which sent Sehwag back in the hut for a duck.
Sachin Tendulkar - like so many times on the current tour - looked to be in imperious touch at the start of his innings. Some glorious shots on the off side followed by a delightful flick off the pads seemed to have set the tempo before he chopped one on to his stumps on 22, in an attempt to leave one from Kulasekara (38 for 2).
Gautam Gambhir who had struck four boundaries during his innings of 29, was the next to go. The left-hander - batting way outside his crease in an attempt to unsettle the bowler - only succeeded in unsettling himself as he played away from his body, and Thisara Perera at gully took a fine catch diving forward to give Kulasekara his second wicket.
Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina then put on 92 for the fourth wicket with the aid of Dinesh Chandimal fielding at deep midwicket, who dropped a couple of sitters to the relief of the Indians.
However, Farveez Maharoof provided his team with the all-important breakthrough by sending back a well-settled Raina. Raina made 32 off 55 balls before he guided a ball that bounced on him into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne at short cover. Kohli, who had brought up his 20th ODI fifty, followed suit soon after for 66 when he perished to Perera, with Kulasekara at mid-on taking a simple catch off a mistimed pull shot.
It was an uphill task and a downhill battle for India from then on but Irfan Pathan with a few lusty blows down the order gave his side an outside chance of an unlikely victory. With wickets falling at the other end, Irfan soon ran out of options and was the last man to fall when he hit one straight back to Perera who finished with figures of 4 for 37 off 7.1 overs.
Earlier, Thirimanne struck his maiden half-century in his fifth ODI, and Tillakaratne Dilshan contributed with 51 as Sri Lanka finished with a highly competitive total of 289 for 6. Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan put on 95 for the first wicket before Jayawardene fell for 45 to Irfan.
Wickets at regular intervals got the world champions back in the match before the Lankans added 94 runs in the last 11 overs as the Indian bowlers failed to come up with the goods. How helpless captain Sehwag felt in the middle was epitomised in the 50th over when Kohli was called up to bowl the last six deliveries which went for 14 runs.