Colombo: Indian bowlers produced a splendid collective effort to carry their team to a 41-run win over a spirited Sri Lanka in a Super 4 match, and into the Asia Cup final here on Tuesday.
Rohit Sharma’s fifty (53 off 48 balls) was the cornerstone of India’s sub-par 213 after Lankan spinners Dunith Wellalage (5/40) and Charith Asalanka (4/18) bamboozled them.
But India, guided by Kuldeep Yadav’s 4 for 43, bowled out Sri Lanka for 172.
India, who entered the final with four points, will either face Sri Lanka or Pakistan in the summit clash on Sunday.
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The hosts will face Pakistan in a crunch match on Thursday.
The insipid effort of their batsmen made it mandatory for the Indian bowlers to be on the money from ball one, and Jasprit Bumrah led the way.
Bumrah took the ball away from Pathum Nissanka and the healthy edge was snaffled behind the wicket by a diving KL Rahul.
Kusal Mendis looked in fine touch but he failed to keep his drive off a slow, full delivery from Bumrah down.
Substitute fielder Suryakumar Yadav took the catch at covers and umpires gave Mendis out after a quick check with the TV umpire for bump ball.
Mohammed Siraj soon got into act, cramping Dimuth Karunaratne for room and his cut did not go beyond Shubman Gill at second slip.
Sri Lanka were 25 for 3 at that stage and Kuldeep took a couple of quick wickets to further dent their chase, reducing them to 99 for six.
However, Wellalage (42 not out) and Dhananjaya de Silva (41 off 66 balls) added 63 runs for an enterprising seventh wicket alliance to revive Lankan hopes.
But a moment of indiscretion ended the stand as De Silva tried to clear the infield off Jadeja only to give a simple catch to Gill at the edge of the circle.
From that point, Wellalage, who batted exceptionally well under pressure against a fancied opponent, tried to bridge the gap.
But the task was a tad too hard to achieve with a one man show.
Earlier, left-arm spinner Wellalage and offie Asalanka did not allow Indian batters to settle into any sort of rhythm, as they knifed through their line-up taking nine wickets among them.
But before Lankan spinners exploited the generous turn and grip on the Premadasa pitch, India started their innings in a blazing fashion.
Rohit added 80 runs for the opening wicket with Gill, and that remained the brightest phase of Indian innings.
Watching Rohit and Gill adding those runs in just 12 overs rekindled the memories of India’s blitz against Pakistan on Monday, when they posted a massive 356 for two.
During his innings, the Indian captain also went past a significant personal milestone, becoming the sixth Indian batsmen to score 10000 runs in ODIs.
The landmark came in a befitting fashion too, as Rohit lifted pacer Kasun Rajita over his head for a majestic six.
Other Indian batsmen to reach the mark are: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. Indeed, a magnificent company to be in!
However, the introduction of Wellalage changed the whole complexion of the game, as the spinner halted Indian batsmen’s early charge.
Gill was the first batsman to depart. The opener played a forward defence without entirely covering the line and once the ball beat his bat, Gill’s fate was sealed.
Wellalage, a former under-19 captain of his country, then went on to show why he has been spoken so highly in Lankan cricketing circles.
The 20-year-old bowled a straight, quick delivery and Rohit could not bring his bat down on time, as the ball rearranged his timber.
But Wellalage wasn’t finished. He added the wickets of Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, who added 63 runs for the seventh wicket with Ishan Kishan, and Hardik Pandya to his kitty for his maiden five-wicket haul in ODI cricket.
None of the following batsmen could effectively negate the uneven bounce and turn on the pitch, as Asalanka wreaked havoc in India’s middle and late order.
His delivery to dismiss Ravindra Jadeja would carry a lot of repeat value.
The ball reared from the length, turned and bounced viciously to take an edge of Jadeja’s bat before nestling in stumper Kusal Mendis’ gloves.
India inched past the 200-run mark as Axar Patel made a precious 26, and the total proved just enough on the night.