By Dinouk Colombage – Pictures by Asanka Ratnayake in Mumbai
1.2 billion Indian dreams were realised last night as team India defeated Sri Lanka by 6 wickets to lift the 2011 World Cup trophy. Chasing 274 for victory, after Mahela Jayawardena setup the total with a breathtaking century, Gautam Gambhir 97 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni 91 not out led their team to victory.
Winning the toss, on the second attempt after the first time went unheard due to the deafening crowds, Skipper Kumar Sangakkara elected to bat first. Sri Lanka stuck with a similar pattern of chopping and changing the team. With the late withdrawal of Angelo Mathews through injury, Sri Lanka drafted Off spinner Suraj Randiv into the team. Sri Lanka had three more changes to their side which had beaten New Zealand in the semi-finals.
Batsman Chamara Kapugedara, All rounder Thushara Perera and fast bowler Nuwan Kulasekara replaced Chamara Silva, Ajantha Mendis and Rangana Herath.
The omission of Mendis and Herath was baffling as they had both enjoyed moderately successful tournaments. The high intense game began with India applying the pressure on Sri Lanka through aggressive fielding and tight bowling.
Neither Upul Tharanga nor Tillekeratne Dilshan was able to get the bowlers away. India got their first breakthrough as Tharanga was dismissed caught brilliantly at first slip by Virender Sehwag off the impressive Zaheer Khan whose first three overs were maidens.
The arrival of Sangakarra to the crease saw an immediate lift in the scoring rate as he and Dilshan looked to unsettle the spin of Yuvraj Singh and Harbajhan Singh. Just as the two appeared to be getting Sri Lanka back on track, Harbajhan struck removing Dilshan clean bowling the opener for 33 leaving Sri Lanka on 60 for two.
As has been so often in the past Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakarra were left to rebuild the innings and as was expected they did not disappoint. Jayawardena had had a quiet tournament by his standards and was looking to end on a high. His footwork was impeccable and his timing spot on as he drove and cut the spinners confidently.
The pair had added 62 for the third wicket and were looking to gain the ascendancy Sangakkara was caught behind by Yuvraj Singh for 48.
Despite the loss of Sangakarra, Jayawardena looked to continue to lead Sri Lanka to a competitive total and combined with Thilan Samaraweera 21 in a stand of 52 for the fourth wicket. Chamara Kapugedara fell early – a victim of a slower delivery from Zaheer Khan which the batsman lofted tamely to extra cover but Nuwan Kulasekara 32 showed that he was no mug with the bat striking some lusty blows including a six over mid-wicket and helping add another 66 runs for the sixth wicket.
Mahela Jayawardena raced to his second hundred of the tournament and with Thushara Perera who made 22 not out in just nine balls including a six off the final delivery ensured that the team reached a competitive 274. The Sri Lankans raced on to the field having ended their innings on a high and looked ready to defend their total with their lives.
Lasith Malinga began the defence in perfect fashion dismissing Sehwag for a second ball duck. He followed shortly after removing the dangerous Sachin Tendulkar leaving India at a precarious 32 for 2. Many have questioned where India would go after the retirement of Tendulkar.
Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli showed that there is little to worry about as they rebuilt and then counter attacked the Sri Lankan bowling. Just as the game looked to be slipping away from Sri Lanka, Dilshan chipped in with a brilliant caught and bowled to remove Kohli. Out strode the Indian skipper having promoted himself up the order to keep the left right combination going.
He and Gambhir immediately reset the pressure on the Sri Lankan fielders as they stole quick singles and struck powerful boundaries. Despite the late dismissal of Gambhir for 97 India looked well on their way to securing the cup. Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni saw their team home with 11 balls to spare, and by doing so regained the trophy they last won in 1983.
Despite a weak performance in the field Sri Lanka had done themselves proud having entered the finals and competed to the end. Sri Lanka not only saw the loss of the World Cup but now prepares to bid farewell to their star bowler Muttiah Muralitharan. For India Sachin Tendulkar has now achieved what he has longed for over the years, lifting the World Cup trophy. The team entered the tournament as favourites and this game confirmed that tag.