Jaspreet Sahni: Raina's old folly, Dhoni's unnecessary hoick and Kohli's run-out almost cost India a win.
Chasing a modest 233, India's victory march was shaping up to be a dawdle at 157 for 3 at the WACA – where India had failed to post 200 in a Test just about a month ago. But Suresh Raina's old folly, MS Dhoni's unnecessary hoik and Virat Kohli's suicidal run almost cost India a win that was in the end rescued by Ravindra Jadeja and the Man of the Match, R Ashwin.
India had Sri Lanka under the pump all through the afternoon with a distinct plan – dry the runs and invite mistakes – that kept up the supply of wickets. And when it came to setting up the chase, Sachin Tendulkar took care of it, though not with the hundred that's now turning into a bounced cheque.
That India hung on only through their lower order after a good start gives the victory a touch of concern. However, we can't take anything away from Ashwin who showed Australian fans - after a disappointing Test series - what he can produce with a top-notch all-round performance – 3 for 32 and 30 not out.
"I told Jaddu [Ravindra Jadeja] that we have to bat 60 balls here and that is what we did." The statement reads like one made by a batsman trying to maneuver the tailenders, but coming from Ashwin, it weighs much more in light of how the Indian middle order gifted their wickets when Sri Lanka were staring down the barrel.
Raina promises a lot but only until a short-pitched ball comes his way. And on Wednesday when he had the time and chance to practice leaving bouncers in the middle, he misconstrued one there to be pulled, only to find himself walking back and allowing Sri Lanka a window of an opportunity.
Much was expected of Dhoni – especially after his good showing in the Twenty20s and the first match of the CB Series against Australia. But the Indian skipper didn't exhibit the wisdom he is known for. The batting Powerplay was around the corner but instead of playing for it, Dhoni chose to clear the field, which only resulted in India losing two wickets in two overs.
Kohli had lost some fluids by now and was cramping up in the Perth heat. But under the new rules, he couldn't ask for a runner unless nine wickets were down. The only option he had was going back 'retired hurt', which India could ill-afford at that stage. Much to the crowd's dismay, Kohli – who was barely able to walk by now – chose to steal a single. Expectedly, he couldn't beat Lasith Malinga's direct hit. Sri Lanka's hopes of an upset win had brightened.
But they hadn't seen Ashwin batting until now. The Lankans, it seems, expected Jadeja to do what he did by scoring those 24 unbeaten runs, but as the two converging fielders saw Ashwin's winning shot land between them, Sri Lanka confirmed that they were taken aback by the 53-run winning partnership.
For India, Virender Sehwag's form and the middle order's lack of application may put them through sterner tests, especially against Australia who won't let them out of jail when given an opportunity similar to what Sri Lanka had on Wednesday.