M A I N   N E W S

Celebrations across the nation as India outplay Lanka to clinch the World Cup after 28 years
Jaideep Ghosh /TNS

Mumbai, April 2
The tears were not from soft players, castigated and criticised, blasted for being too poor, too complacent or too obstinate. They were from men, men who fought together, at times fell together. In the end, they emerged on top of the cricketing world, champions who are human enough to cry with joy.

For the records, India scored 277 for four off 48.2 two overs to win the ICC World Cup 2011 by six wickets, beating a valiant Sri Lanka, whose 274 for six was scripted by one of the finest centuries of One-day International cricket my Mahela Jayawardene.

India found itís own heroes, a surprising one in Gautam Gambhir, a much-awaited one in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and in Virat Kohli, who will surely lead the side one day.

Yuvraj Singh, who strode in to strike some imperious blows, was declared Man of the Series, while Dhoni was Man of the Match.

It couldnít have been a worst start for India as Lasith Malinga trapped Virender Sehwag in front. And India stops when Sachin Tendulkar gets out, and this evening was stunned when he chased a wide one from Malinga. The fast bowlerís victory lap was run in almost total silence among 32,000 people. But in Kohli, Gambhir who had walked in with only two deliveries bowled, found an able ally as they set about the repair job. Kohli possibly has one of the coolest heads in the side, belying his years, and his poise was complemented by Gambhirís determination as the Delhi duo soon realised that the attack had no real teeth and went about their job.

The 83-run stand was ended with a blinder of a catch from Tillekeratne Dilshan, but in walked the captain, and never looked back.

For most of the Indian innings, it looked like Gambhir was unbreakable. He ran like a man possessed, but had his wits around him and didnít get his partner into trouble. He dived, he clattered into fielders, hurt his arm, his back. But he would not break. Sweat poured off him, but his brooding eyes at grit would not let him fall.

He has promised a lot but delivered modestly through the tournament. Tonight, he wasnít going to give in. Sri Lanka didnít help their cause when Nuwan Kulasekara grassed him with the batsman on 30. The visitors paid a heavy price for that. Gambhir deserved a hundred if a batsman ever did. But when he departed for 97, it etched itself in the history of cricket for the most important century ever missed.

Dhoni also was a man on a mission. He has had his share of grief in the tournament, primarily with his selection of bowlers, his insistence to select Piyush Chawla ahead of R. Ashwin, and the subsequent failure of the bowling, in the initial stages. He even had the selectors on his case, and the people in the nation react adversely to anything anyway.

Additionally, his batting form wasnít inspiring any confidence. He was getting runs, but not with the conviction or power that Dhoni is famous for. Most importantly, he wasnít being able to finish, coming in lower down the order.

His promotion today had as much to do with keeping the left-right combination going as far as possible, as it was to give him time and space to create a partnership. This he and Gambhir achieved with great aplomb, as the bowling, which was good without ever being really telling, began to falter and the famous Sri Lankan fielding deserted them when needed most.

The track didnít really deteriorate much over the two innings and traces of dew didnít help the Lankans. Suraj Randiv, brought in tactically to replace Angelo Mathews, was not the killer weapon he was supposed to be and Muttiah Muralitharan was a shadow of the man who ruled the world for so long.

But the men today were Gambhir and Dhoni. Their fourth-wicket stand of 109 off 118 balls was something which decisively put Sri Lanka out of the picture.

Earlier, Jayawardene set up partnership after partnership, and with some lusty hitting from the lower-order batsmen, Sri Lanka ensured that India would have to toil very hard indeed. Ultimately, Jayawardene, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thisara Perera came out to be the batting heroes, clobbering the Indian bowling haywire.

But while the Sri Lankans made steady progress through most of the innings, it was essentially Jayawardene and Kulasekara who threw the gauntlet down for the Indians. The line and length began wavering as they ran hard, played some classic shots and improvised with the intent that made the fielding also crack.

Kulasekara began the assault on Zaheer Khan with the first six of the innings and Jayawardene showed his genius with shots through and over the field as they set up a rollicking 66-run stand off just 49 balls.

Kulasekaraís dismissal wasnít much of a relief as Perera came in to join the vice-captain and hammered Zaheer out of the park, to score a nine-ball 22 not out. The Powerplay, which came in the last five overs, cost India 63 runs for one wicket. The seventh-wicket stand was of 26 runs off just 12 balls. Zaheerís first five overs had gone for just six runs and included three consecutive maidens. But his second lot of five overs went for 54 runs. Figures that may return to haunt India.

But the start couldnít have been better for India, specifically Zaheer, who had his sights set on opener Upul Tharanga. The batsman was completely rooted to his crease and barely had a say as the ball whizzed past his bat. To be fair to him, Tharanga did middle a few, but the square fielders, lead by Yuvraj Singh, had their radars working in great order and nothing went past them.

Tharangaís dismissal was a boon for Sri Lanka as this at least gave them some sort of a start in terms of getting the run-rate to rise, if not meteorically, at least respectably. Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan did stitch together a few runs, but the fielding continued to be tight and Zaheer, bowling three maidens at the beginning of the innings, ended a spell of five overs for just six runs. It looked a tall order when Lanka reached 274, but then after some hiccups, Indiaís batsmen held their nerve and pulled off a famous victory.





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