India beat Lanka, qualify for final

Port of Spain, July 10 (IANS) India thrashed Sri Lanka by 81 runs (D/L method) to not only qualify for the Tri-Nation Series final but also top the group after the last league match got over at the Queen's Park Oval here Tuesday.

A splendid bowling performance by pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and a gritty knock by opening batsman Rohit Sharma were significant in bringing India home.

India were batting at 119/3 in 29 overs when the skies opened up and wasted four and a half hours of play. After rain stopped, Sri Lanka were given a revised target of 178 to chase from 26 overs.

India had to keep their neighbouring opponents below 167 to have any chance of making into the final, which the World Champions achieved with 1.2 overs to spare bowling out Lanka for a measly 96.

With this huge win, India also bagged the bonus point to end top of the group with 10 points, with Sri Lanka and West Indies, second and third, respectively, with nine points each. Lanka's better run-rate qualifies them for the final as the hosts make an exit from the tournament.

After being put into bat, Indian openers Rohit (48 not out) and Shikhar Dhawan (15) looked steady and accelerated at a sturdy rate but a loose shot by the latter saw him being caught in the slips by Mahela Jayawardene, who became the first non-wicketkeeper cricketer to take 200 catches in One-Day Internationals (ODI).

In came stand-in skipper Virat Kohli, who looked in prime form, smashing 31, including four boundaries, before being trapped in front of the stumps. Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik (12) also did not last long.

But in-form man Rohit Sharma kept the scoreboard ticking for India. Rohit was hit on the body a couple of times but the gritty batsman stood to his ground and retaliated by hitting two boundaries and a huge six in his innings.

However, with India at 119 the skies opened up bringing an end to the innings. The downpour almost threatened to take another game in the series into the reserve day but the skies cleared and Sri Lanka were set a revised target.

The difficult pitch looked even more difficult when the Sri Lankans came out to bat as none of the batsmen could tackle the Indian pacers in damp conditions.

Bhuvneshwar probably bowled the best six overs of his short international career as he rattled Sri Lanka's experienced batting top order. In the process, the Meerut boy notched up his first four-wicket haul and best bowling figures of four wickets for eight runs from six overs which included a maiden too.

Veterans Mahela Jayawardene (11) and Kumar Sangakkara (0) also fell to the 23-year-old pacer, who was later declared the man of the match.

The Sri Lankan batsmen never looked like achieving the target after losing four wickets with the score at 31. Dinesh Chandimal (26) tried to keep the scoreboard ticking but kept running out of partners as the Indian bowlers kept clinching wickets at regular intervals.

Lanky fast bowler Ishant Sharma and offie Ravindra Jadeja took two wickets while Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav finished off the Sri Lankan innings with a wicket each.

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