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HAMBANTOTA: Medium pacer Thisara Perera ransacked India’s vaunted batting card in blustery conditions as Sri Lanka thrashed India by nine wickets in the second ODI here on Tuesday.
The victory, achieved with more than 30 overs to spare, helped the hosts square the five-match series 1-1, and is India's second worst ODI defeat in terms of balls remaining.
India elected to bat as a strong breeze raged across the field, and after a devil-may-care beginning from Virender Sehwag found themselves shorn of their top-order in the face of smart bowling by Perera (who at one stage boasted figures of 3-3-0-3) and Angelo Mathews (7-2-14-3).
Unable to recover from repeated setbacks, India was shot out for 138 in 33.3 overs, with Gautam Gambhir (65) playing the lone hand.
Sri Lanka faced no trouble in chasing down the paltry target, with a little help from India who bowled 14 wides in 20 overs and grassed Tillakaratne Dilshan when he had score just one.
The openers Dilshan (50) and Upul Tharanga (59 not out) thwarted the Indian attack for 64 runs in eight overs before the early dinner break, necessitated by India’s hasty demise.
On resumption, more of the same fare was on the menu. The two extended their alliance to 119 in under 17 overs, helping themselves to half-centuries and reeling in victory in a shade under 20 overs, for the loss of Dilshan’s wicket.
India could have Dilshan earlier when the opener had scored one, but a loafing Sehwag grassed a straightforward attempt at slip.
The visitors bowling arsenal, spearheaded by Zaheer Khan and shouldered by Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav, was ineffective in the face of purposeful batting.
It was a comprehensive win considering the hosts’ awry beginning.
Earlier, India won the toss and in blustery conditions capitalized on some wayward bowling and fielding from the hosts.
Debutant left-arm seamer Isuru Udana marked his first ODI with a wide-strewn 11-ball over, conceding 16 runs and sending India into overdrive at 31 without loss in under four overs.
And then it was time for Perera, who rocked India with a triple strike. The medium pacer strangled the runs by keeping a persistent off-stump line, claiming a wicket in each of his first three overs and had figures of 3-3-0-3 at one stage, as India’s batsmen struggled against the away-moving delivery.
Sehwag was first to go. The opener threw caution to the wind (of which, incidentally, there was plenty) and swatted Perera hard, only to be plucked out of this air for a sensational return catch with the bowler almost parallel to the ground in his reflex dive.
Having scored a century in his previous three matches against Sri Lanka, Virat Kohli perished when he tried to guide a widish delivery to third man and edged to Sangakkara behind the wicket.
Rohit Sharma played on to Mathews for a duck. Suresh Raina too departed in similar fashion, chopping Perera on to the stumps to become the Lankan’s third victim.
Perera could have had his fourth had Mathews not dropped a sitter of Dhoni at slip when the Indian skipper was yet to get off the mark. But Mathews atoned for his lapse soon after by cramping Dhoni with a gorgeous off-cutter, which the batsman could only snick to a graciously accepting Sangakkara.
India were 60-5 after 15 overs and it only went downhill from there.
All this while, Gautam Gambhir held one end firm. He launched a quasi rearguard with R. Ashwin, but the off-spinner was run-out farcically when he sought, lethargically, to retrace his steps back to safety from an aborted third run attempt.
Gambhir was finally the last man out, having scored a responsible 96-ball 65, but all his stoicism counted for naught when appended to the callous batting of his teammates.