After beating Pakistan at Mohali by 30 runs, India were now in the final of the 2011 cricket World Cup; their third in the cricket World Cup, and against a strong Sri Lankan side led by Kumar Sangakkara. Sri Lanka were also in their third World Cup final after defeating a resilient New Zealand in the semi-finals.
This was the first time that the cricket World Cup final was an all-Asian one and this would be the eighth meeting between India and Sri Lanka at the cricket World Cup. Sri Lanka led the head-to-head with four wins and two defeats with one match at the 1992 World Cup being abandoned.
The final was held at the iconic Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on this very day six years back and was attended by the Presidents of both nations along with many VIPs and celebrities.
However, the final began in a controversial manner as the toss had to be executed twice with match referee Jeff Crowe unable to hear Kumar Sangakkara’s call over the crowd. Eventually, Sri Lanka won the toss and Sangakkara opted to bat first.
Sri Lanka’s slow start followed by Jayawardene’s magical knock
Sri Lanka were off to a slow start, largely due to Zaheer Khan’s brilliant bowling as the left-arm fast bowler bowled three successive maiden overs. Zaheer drew first blood for India by dismissing Upul Tharanga for two runs. Stability in the Sri Lankan innings was then restored by Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan who added 43 for the second wicket before the latter was bowled by Harbhajan Singh for 33.
After Dilshan’s dismissal, Mahela Jayawardene joined Sangakkara and the two added 62 runs for the third wicket with Jayawardene scoring steadily while Sangakkara played in a relatively defensive manner. Sangakkara was eventually dismissed for 48 by Yuvraj Singh, but Jayawardene slowly increased the tempo and began to play aggressively as he reached his 14th ODI century and his second of the tournament.
Jayawardene had some good assistance from Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera who scored 32 and 22 respectively to take Sri Lanka to a competitive total of 274/6 in their 50 overs. Amongst the Indian bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh picked up two wickets apiece, while Harbhajan Singh picked up one.
India’s disastrous start followed by the innings revival by Gambhir and Kohli
India began their chase in the worst possible manner with Virender Sehwag being dismissed by Lasith Malinga in only the second ball of the innings and Gautam Gambhir came in to join Sachin Tendulkar at the crease.
Tendulkar began well, scoring a couple of boundaries but he did not have a long stay at the crease as he nicked a Lasith Malinga delivery to Kumar Sangakkara and was sent back to the pavilion with the scoreboard reading 31/2.
At this point, Virat Kohli came in to join Gambhir and the two gradually began to build a partnership to bring India back into the match. Both batted bravely and Gambhir reached his fifty.
However, their 93-ball partnership of 83 was broken after Tillakaratne Dilshan took a brilliant catch to dismiss Virat Kohli for 35 off his own bowling and India were 114/3.
The partnership that changed the match
After Kohli’s dismissal, Indian captain MS Dhoni – who was in poor form with the bat throughout the tournament – came in ahead of Yuvraj Singh to the surprise of the crowd. Dhoni and Gambhir began to play defensively and the required run-rate rose to 6 runs per over.
Dhoni then gradually started to score quickly while Gambhir was just saving his wicket and dealing mainly in ones and twos. The partnership built by the two began to put pressure on the Sri Lankan bowlers and India were now in a pretty dominant position.
Dhoni got to his fifty as Gambhir was nearing his hundred. However, the Delhi batsman wasn’t able to complete his hundred as he was bowled for Thisara Perera for 97. Nevertheless, he had done his job and India were on the brink of victory.
After Gambhir’s dismissal, Yuvraj Singh joined Dhoni at the crease and both players began to score steadily and by the end of the 48th over, India needed only five runs to win. Nuwan Kulasekara was given the responsibility of bowling the penultimate over.
The winning moment
Yuvraj took a single of the first ball which put Dhoni on strike. In the very next delivery, Dhoni hit the ball into the stands and commentator Ravi Shastri exuberantly declaring the victors: “Dhoni finishes off in style; a magnificent strike in the crowd; India lift the World Cup after 28 years; the party starts in the dressing room and it’s an Indian captain who has been absolutely magnificent in the night of the final”.
The wait was finally over and the dream of an entire nation was realised. The reaction of the players was enough to suggest what this victory meant to them as Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, and even Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t keep their emotions in check.
Tendulkar was carried on the shoulders of his teammates before the same was done with coach Gary Kirsten. Dhoni was adjudged the Man of the Match for his sensational 91 off 79 deliveries. Yuvraj Singh was adjudged the Player of the Tournament for his brilliant performances with bat and ball throughout the tournament, scoring 362 runs at an average of 90.50 and picking up 15 wickets.