Scorecard | Action in images | Schedule
It’s tough generating interest for a dead rubber ODI between India and Sri Lanka, especially in the Olympic season.
But if the final match of the series managed to breed its slender share of followers, the credit goes to the sideplot.
No matter the series was won 4-1 - thanks to Gautam Gambhir (88) and Irfan Pathan (five for 61) - or that India moved to the No.2 spot in the ODI rankings, what made for better viewership was how the game provided opportunities to players on the fringe - and how they were accepted or squandered.
India batted first as Ajinkya Rahane came in for Virender Sehwag (glute injury), finally getting a game after having engraved his behind on the bench. Rahane scratched around for a 17-ball 9 before being meted out an iffy leg before decision against Thisara Perera.
Rohit Sharma got yet another match and rounded up his most wretched tour with a nine-ball four, bowled by Pradeep to take his total from five matches to 13 - the worst performance by a specialist Indian batsman in a five-match series.
Manoj Tiwary (65), playing his second game of the series after having claimed four wickets in his first, laid a strong claim to at least a few more games in the upcoming New Zealand series with a brisk half-century.
The 26-year-old featured in a 110-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Gautam Gambhir (88), scoring at almost a run-a ball and spicing up his knock with six boundaries.
That stand and the late-innings assault by Dhoni (58) and Irfan Pathan took India to an imposing 294-7, after Lasith Malinga’s double strike – Tiwary and Raina (0) – in the 38th over had left India tottering somewhat.
Playing for honour, Sri Lanka were without their middle order engines Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, and being captained by Angelo Mathews. They lost Tillakaratne Dilshan in the second over as his slice off an Irfan Pathan wide was held by Zaheer Khan at third man.
Upul Tharanga blazed away at the top of the order for a 21-ball 31, but he too lost his scalp to Pathan, as Sri Lanka lost Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Kapugedera and Angelo Mathews cheaply.
It was Lahiru Thirimanna (77) who kept the hosts in the mix with three sixes and six fours. Thirimanne added 102 for the sixth wicket with Jeevan Mendis (72). He opened up after reaching his half-century, clubbing Tiwary for a couple of sixes and then smashing Zaheer Khan for the same result.
Thirimanne was dropped by Dhoni off Zaheer on 76, but was run out one ball later as a hobbling Dhoni ran to remove the stumps. At that stage Lanka needed 91 to win in 13.5 overs.
Mendis and Perera (18) added 48 in 40 balls, and Sri Lanka appeared on track for a win when Irfan Pathan struck twice in the 43rd over to remove both set batsmen, signaling the end of the chase.
Pathan picked up his fifth wicket when he bowled Sachithra Senanayake and India gained a 20-run win when Ashok Dinda claimed Malinga. Sri Lanka was bundled out for 274 in 45.4 overs.
Earlier during India’s innings, Virat Kohli finally failed, trapped in front by the quick Nuwan Pradeep.
Gambhir remained focused on his third fifty of the series, scoring briskly and at will. He was struck on the glove by Malinga and needed treatment from the physio during his knock.
Tiwary, for his part, was confident against the slower bowlers. He opted for the reverse sweep against offie Sachithra Senanayake and spanked the same bowler over mid-off for boundaries in the same over.
Tiwary was out to a Malinga bouncer and on the next ball Suresh Raina was dismissed for a duck. With the finisher gone, another opportunity arose and was grabbed with both hands.
Irfan Pathan, having made the squad in lieu of the injured Vinay Kumar joined Dhoni and milked the last ten overs for 75 runs in a busy partnership. Pathan struck a brisk unbeaten 29 to the skipper's 38-ball 58, the nice supportive knock preceding his lucky five-for in the second essay.