Port of Spain: Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar wreaked havoc with a brilliant opening spell as he powered India into the final of the Celkon Mobile Cup Tri Series tournament with a commanding 81-run victory over Sri Lanka via Duckworth Lewis method in another rain-affected match on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Kumar took career-best figures of 4 for 8 runs in six overs as Sri Lanka were bundled out for a paltry 96 in 24.4 overs in pursuit of 178 in stipulated 26 overs as Virat Kohli, in his maiden stint as captain, guided the 'Men In Blue' into the title round. India will again meet Sri Lanka in the final at the same venue on Thursday.
India thus topped the table with 10 points including bonus points from the last two encounters having lost the first two matches and also eliminated hosts West Indies in the process.
Put into bat, Rohit Sharma contributed 48 as India reached 119 for three in 29 overs when rain halted proceedings. Courtesy Duckworth-Lewis method, Sri Lanka's target swelled upto 178 in 26 overs.
For India, the magic figure was 167 under which they had to restrict the islanders in order to make it to the summit clash.
Kumar's knack of picking up early wickets reaped dividends for India as he rocked the opposition removing Upul Tharanga (6) and Kumar Sangakkara (0) off successive deliveries. Tharanga got one that shaped away after pitching as he edged one to Suresh Raina stationed at wide second slip.
Sangakkara got a raw deal as the delivery from Kumar seemed to be going well above stumps as he was adjudged leg before.
If that wasn't enough, Mahela Jayawardene (11) was also dismissed cheaply to make it 27 for three. Jayawardene slashed hard at a rising delivery only to be holed at third man where Murali Vijay was stationed.
Kumar soon got his fourth wicket when Lahiru Thirimanne (4) offered a simple catch to Virat Kohli at cover as Lanka looked down and out at 31 for four.
The manner which the young UP lad swung the ball under overcast conditions was a treat to watch. He bowled those beautiful outswingers which Dinesh Chandimal (26, 54 balls) played and missed repeatedly with an occasional one coming into the right-hander.
Once Kumar had done the initial damage, Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 16 in 5 overs) provided perfect exhibition of classical left-arm spin bowling as he removed Angelo Mathews (10) and Chandimal in quick succession.
Both deliveries spun away from the right-handers after pitching. While Mathews was caught by a fumbling Dinesh Karthik, a frustrated Chandimal was deceived by the flight and turn as he was stumped leaving Lanka reeling at 63 for six.
Jeevan Mendis (13) was castled by Ravichandran Ashwin as the match was as a contest was as good as over. Ishant Sharma (2 for 17 in 4.4 overs) put the final nail in the coffin by polishing off the tail.
Earlier, Rohit revelled again in an opener's role as his unbeaten 48 took India to 119 for three in 29 overs on a track which wasn't conducive for free-flowing strokeplay. In-form opener Shikhar Dhawan (15), skipper Virat Kohli (31) and Dinesh Karthik (12) were three batsmen who were dismissed in the process.
Giving Rohit company was Suresh Raina who was batting on four. During his patient innings in which he faced 83 balls, the talented Mumbaikar hit a couple of boundaries and a big slog swept six off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. With Lankan bowlers sticking to a disciplined line, it wasn't easy to hit big strokes Rohit curbed his natural instincts to play a responsible knock so far.
Herath was the most successful among the Lankan bowlers grabbing two for 32 in six overs while his captain Angelo Mathews bowled a very econimical first spell in which he took the wicket of Dhawan giving away only five runs in five overs.
Dhawan tried to give rival captain Angelo Mathews the charge only to guide the ball to Mahela Jayawardene at the second slips. Jayawardene, thus became the first cricketer to complete 200 catches in limited overs cricket.
Skipper Kohli started off by clipping Dilhara Lokuhettige to the boundary through mid-wicket region and then also cover drove Malinga for another four. Along with Rohit, Kohli started building the innings in a slow and steady manner. Meaqnwhile Rohit was dropped by Jeevan Mendis when he was on 12 with Malinga being the unfortunate bowler.
After a 49-run partnership, it was the left-arm spin of Herath that saw the end of stand-in Indian captain. Herath pushed one quicker and it caught Kohli plumb on the back-foot. Kohli faced 52 balls to hit four boundaries.
Karthik started with a bang as he pulled Herath over mid-wicket boundary for a big six but the spinner had the last laugh. He bowled a delivery that pitched on the middle and turned enough to beat Karthik's bat and hit the off-stump.
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