The Lankan batman’s knock was a lesson – how an innings should be constructed and paced while chasing a fighting total on a rather sluggish wicket.
Sri Lanka, chasing 264, were off fine start with the openers putting on 80 runs on the board. The Lankans lost their way in the middle overs but Sangakkara stood firm, keeping the scoreboard moving with singles when the goings got a little tough.
He, however, changed gears effortlessly when the asking run rate began to climb. He brought out the big shots, and the Sri Lanka were back in the hunt. He departed immediately after completing is hundred, but by then he had already put his team on the threshold of victory.
Earlier, opener Shikhar Dhawan missed out on a century by six runs as spinner Ajantha Mendis returned to haunt India by restricting them to 264 for nine.
Sent into bat, opener Shikhar Dhawan (94) and captain Virat Kohli (48) led India’s recovery in a 97-run second-wicket partnership, before Mendis, more than three years after his mystery was decoded by the Indian batsmen, came back to trouble them with figures of 4/60 at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium.
Mendis castled Kohli and Dhawan with his carrom ball while off-spinner Sachitra Senanayake scalped 3/41 as India’s new-look middle order sorely missed Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Thanks to the duo’s exploits, India slipped after being comfortably placed at 175 for two in the 36th over.
Ajinkya Rahane (22), Ambati Rayudu (18) and Dinesh Karthik (4) looked good but could not convert their starts, while Stuart Binny did not trouble the scorers after being out for a zero. India who was comfortably placed at 175 for two in the 36th over slipped to 215 for 7.
Having come into the limelight with his career-best 6/13 against India in Karachi in 2008, Mendis got a reality check after the currently out-of-favour Vireder Sehwag unleashed his fury on him the next year. But that was then and on this day Mendis, who was included in place of medium pacer Suranga Kamal, did not let the Lankans down.
The pitch behaved differently with the ball staying low right from the very first over. It was the perfect condition to test the openers who were in the middle of a prolonged lean patch.
Sharma, particularly, struggled against the odd ball as Sri Lanka, who were playing with three specialist spinners, brought on offie Senanayake in the sixth over.
Lanka seemed in perfect control, conceding only 37 runs in the first power play which also yielded Sharma’s wicket. After all his struggle, Sharma’a anxious stay finally came to an end when he got to out to a dubious decision. Umpire Nigel Llong ruled the batsman out despite being long way down the track.