World Twenty20: Three talking points as Sri Lanka win title
World Twenty20: Three talking points as Kumar Sangakkara guides Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory over India in the title
Sri Lanka take the initiative
It had all been going so smoothly for India. In five games leading up to this final, they had rarely been troubled. They had chased down 130 without breaking sweat, they had overhauled 170 with consummate ease. The pattern had been set. And then Lasith Malinga, whose team had batted first in four of their previous five games, won the toss and decided to bowl. Maybe, with rain having delayed the start of the game, he was looking to exploit something extra in the pitch, or perhaps he wanted to put his team in the position of knowing what they had to do should Duckworth / Lewis intervene part way through. Whatever his reasoning, it seemed to disturb India. Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara set the tone with tight early bowling, and the Indians’ running between the wickets was nervy, with more than one occasion when a direct hit would have brought about a dismissal. Captain MS Dhoni, so often the finisher of an Indian innings, looked frenetic in scraping four off his seven balls. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, were in control, both of their bowling and of the occasion. They allowed none of India’s batsmen to get off to a flyer, and provided a masterclass in powerplay and death bowling, with the first six and the final four overs going for a mere 50 runs combined. As crunch time came in the Indian innings, Virat Kohli, who had found his timing and was starting to look imperious, suddenly found himself starved both of the strike and of runs, facing eight balls in the last four overs and mustering only seven runs from those as Malinga and Kulasekara consistently found a full length and excellent lines. India eventually managed to scrape their way to 130. It was never going to be enough.
A fitting farewell
To say that Kumar Sangakkara has not been in the best of form this tournament is like describing the England team’s winter as underwhelming. But Sanga is too experienced and too fine a player to allow that to get to him, and he loves playing Twenty20 cricket against Sri Lanka. Coming into today’s game with a total of 183 runs from three innings against the islanders at a strike rate of 181, from the moment he came in at the end of the sixth over of the innings, he looked serene. While his teammates seemed to be doing their best to keep India in the game by giving their wickets away at crucial times when all that was needed was a nudge and a nurdle, an early couple of boundaries off Jadeja got him going, and his innings was paced to perfection. For a time, indeed, it had looked like the perfect fairytale ending, with Sangakkara’s old sparring partner Mahela Jayawardene also looking in excellent touch until he uncharacteristically tugged a ball from Suresh Raina to Ravi Ashwin at short midwicket. That, then, was not to be, but Sangakkara would not be denied.
Butterfingers and the butterfly effect
It has been a selfless decision for Dinesh Chandimal, the nominal Sri Lanka team captain, to keep faith with team lineups at the business end of this tournament which could find no space for him. Today, though, that decision could have cost his team the game. The consequences of many of the choices which are made in the sporting world can be far-reaching, but the Sri Lankan team management surely could not have envisaged this one costing them over 60 runs. It is difficult, though, to think of other circumstances in which Lasith Malinga, who has dropped nearly half of the catching chances which have come his way in Twenty20 internationals since 2012, would have been fielding at short midwicket to Virat Kohli. That, however, was where he was (presumably so he felt involved enough, as stand-in captain, to be able to influence play) when the ball came to him with India on 31-1 and Kohli, the tournament’s leading run scorer, on 11. His jump was ill-timed, his hands out of position, and the ball fell to earth. Five balls later, Kohli danced down the wicket and sent a clean hit sailing over long off, and with that he was away, rifling drives through the off side and effortless lifting length balls out of the ground. In the end, Kohli ran out of support; had India managed to eke out even 15 more runs, though, how important that drop, and that decision, might have been.